With stable political, economic, and social environments and a cohesive energy strategy, Uruguay could be Latin America’s best kept secret.

According to state-owned Administración Nacional de Combustibles, Alcoholes, y Portland (ANCAP), Uruguay’s geology is similar to that of neighboring producing basins. This obvious hydrocarbon potential led ANCAP to launch Uruguay Round 2009, which according to ANCAP, opened a new industrial area for development in the country despite the tough financial and commodity pricing environment ruling when it was launched in December 2008.

Several companies expressed interest in the first round, and six companies – BHP Billiton, Galp Energia, Petróleos de Venezuela, Pluspetrol, Petrobras, and YPF – qualified to submit offers. Galp, Petrobras, and YPF formed a consortium and won blocks 3 and 4 in the Punta del Este Basin. YPF operates Block 3 and Petrobras operates Block 4.


Nine offshore blocks are being offered in Uruguay Round II. (Map courtesy of ANCAP)

On Nov. 9, 2010, Uruguay announced Uruguay Round II, which includes blocks in three basins: Punta del Este, Pelotas (southern portion), and Oriental del Plata, which are genetically related to the Western Gondwana breakup and the subsequent development of the Atlantic Ocean.

Hydrocarbon potential
The Punta del Este Basin is a northwest to southeast trending aborted rift that is perpendicular to the continental margin. The Pelotas Basin belongs to the flexural border of a precursor rift structure. The Oriental del Plata Basin developed in the Paleocene when the Punta del Este and Pelotas basins began functioning as a single sedimentary environment.

The Uruguayan continental margin has shown evidence of hydrocarbons that confirm hydrocarbon generation and the presence of an active petroleum system, ANCAP said. Correlations exist among Uruguayan basins and neighboring basins, which allows an integrated petroleum system to be elaborated offshore.

Seismic data
In addition to well logs and reports, ANCAP obtained 7,456 miles (12,000 km) of 2-D seismic data between 1970 and 1982. Also available to potential bidders are several more recent 2-D seismic multiclient geophysical surveys gathered between 2002 and 2008 by CGGVeritas and Wavefield Inseis.

ANCAP is planning to obtain new seismic information that includes a contract with GXT/ION for acquisition, processing, and interpretation of 1,864 miles (3,000 km) of 2-D data. There also is the possibility of an aeromagnetic survey by Fugro. In addition, ANCAP intends to acquire access to satellite images, an electromagnetic survey, reprocessed oil seismic data, multiclient fluid inclusions analysis and report, and a new 2-D seismic survey covering 3,107 miles (5,000 km).

Uruguay Round II already has received a high level of interest from companies such as ExxonMobil, El Paso, Petrobras, Vale do Rio Doce, ONGC Videsh, Statoil, Perenco, Karoon Gas, and Eni. ANCAP will continue to promote the bidding round throughout 2011. For additional information, visit www.rondauruguay.gub.uy?.