Apache Corp (NYSE:APA) has an aggressive exploration and development program planned for Argentina over the next few years, with opportunities in both unconventional and conventional oil and gas plays. (For more on oil and gas, check out Oil And Gas Industry Primer.)

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Argentina Summary
Apache Corp reported production of 48,537 barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) per day from the company's operations in Argentina during the second quarter of 2011. This production is primarily natural gas, with approximately 30% of volumes composed of crude oil or natural gas liquids.

Apache Corp spent $158 million in capital in Argentina through the first six months of 2011, and has allocated a total of $350 million for the full year.

History
Apache Corp was a relatively small player in Argentina until 2006, when the company purchased properties here from Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE:PXD). The assets were spread across three separate basins and included developed and undeveloped oil and gas properties, pipelines, gas processing plants and an existing library of seismic data.

Current Operations
Apache Corp has millions of acres to explore and develop in the Noroeste, Cuyo, Neuquén and Austral basins in Argentina. The company plans to drill 53 wells in 2011 and more than 350 wells from 2012 through 2015. The company estimates that production from its Argentina operations will double by 2015.

Gas Plus Program
One reason that Apache Corp has been increasing the development of properties in Argentina is the Gas Plus Program, which was initiated by the government here in 2008. This program allows exploration and production companies to sell natural gas developed from unconventional resource plays at a higher price within Argentina.

Apache Corp reported production of 77 million cubic feet per day under this program in the second quarter of 2011. Apache Corp plans to drill 24 wells in this program in 2011 and 190 more from 2012 through 2015. (Add exploration to your portfolio. Read Unearth Profits In Oil Exploration And Production.)

Exploration
Apache Corp has more than five million acres to explore across Argentina and is pursuing a number of different oil and gas plays. In the Neuquén Basin, Apache Corp is targeting the Los Molles and Vaca Muerta Shale and believes that these plays will contain natural gas with varying degrees of liquid hydrocarbon content and an oil window.

YPF (NYSE:YPF) recently reported potential shale oil resources totaling 150 million BOE at the Loma La Lata property in the Neuquén Basin.

Apache Corp is involved on a non operated basis with Gran Tierra Energy (NYSE:GTE) at the Santa Victoria block in the Noroeste Basin. The venture plans to drill one exploration well here in the first half of 2012.

Total (NYSE:TOT) has been involved in Argentina since the late 1970's and operates approximately 28% of Argentina's natural gas production. The company recently bought a working interest in four exploration licenses and will evaluate the potential for shale gas in these areas.

The Bottom Line
Apache Corp's Egyptian operations are the crown jewel of the company's international portfolio and, given its excellence and skill as an operator, it is likely that the company may one day make the same claim about Argentina. (For more on investing in oil, check out A Guide To Investing In Oil Markets.)

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