The object of this paper is to show the great importance that Underground Gas Storage (UGS) currently has in the modern world, mainly in connection with its usefulness for gas transportation and distribution systems and with the stabilization of liquid and gas hydrocarbon production in the fields involved.
The strong trend towards increasing the number of facilities of this kind, which is currently seen in countries with sharp weather differences in winter and summer, is related to the fact that this operating tool is the most adequate, economical, safe and environment-friendly technological means that the industry has to store large volumes of gas ready to be marketed.
YPF S.A. has started to study the possibilities of developing UGS projects in different areas of Argentina located near the main consumption centers. For this purpose, the company has conducted 2D and 3D seismic recording works, exploration well drilling, reservoir numerical simulation studies, and gas injection testing with encouraging results up to the present date.
UGS has become an essential tool in the most advanced countries of the world, where underground storage facilities for natural gas, liquefied gas (LPG), petrochemical products, etc. have been developed through different appropriate processes and techniques.
In this sense, natural gas importing countries, such as Germany, France and Italy, have had to develop UGS in places near the main industrial and urban centers for strategic reasons that emerged in the past and also because of the need to have a reliable supply and obtain good prices in the mid- and long-term gas purchase agreements.
On the other hand, in the United States and Canada, where the first UGS facilities were built, such facilities were developed simultaneously with the growth of the natural as industry, while transportation and distribution systems were also being developed.
In markets like Latin America, natural gas does not yet have a big share in countries' total energy consumption, except for Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico and Venezuela. In Chile and Brazil, for instance, a significant increase in this fluid's share is expected to take place during the next decade, as a result of growing imports from Bolivia and Argentina.
Also Uruguay and Paraguay, although to a smaller extent, will undergo changes in their energy supply base, as a result of the introduction of Argentine gas, provided that the export projects currently under analysis are materialized. In order to obtain a trunk gas pipeline network for regional supply among Latin American southern cone countries, which operates efficiently and which satisfactorily meets Argentina's domestic supply, it will be necessary to develop a series of UGS projects which will make it possible to decompress and soften the big fluctuations in market demand, modulating gas production in the fields.
There are currently no UGS facilities in Latin America, which is an obstacle to be overcome in order to achieve the gas regional integration without major complications, mainly in terms of operating flexibility, gas distribution service quality, and an adequate and rational sizing of the new facilities to be built.