The development of the Vaca Muerta deposit continues to generate productive projects around it. The economic explosion of the town of Añelo in the province of Neuquén, was followed by the Zapala Free Trade Zone start-up, which is 160 kilometers from the shale gas formation where the Argentine Energy Policy expectation for the next decades is concentrated.

The 30 year concession contract was signed yesterday by Governor Omar Gutierrez with representatives of the transitional union of five Neuquén companies that will administer it. From this moment, the UTE may begin with the movement of soils on the area destined for the Free Trade Zone. The first stage will include basic works such as a perimeter fence, lighting, sheds and an open pit tank.

The pole has a total area of 250 hectares which will concentrate industrial, logistic and service activities. As officially reported, the first instance for the development of 20 hectares required a $ 70 million investment.

Because of the deferral of import taxes and the possibility of storing large amounts of stocks for long periods of time (even exceeding what is established by law for tax deposits), Zapala Free Trade Zone will allow companies to have financial benefits that will have direct impact on business results.

Likewise, investors say the availability of inputs and the short distance from the hydrocarbon production areas will prevent unscheduled shutdowns saving millionaire costs to the operating companies.

“This brand new pole is of extreme strategic importance due to its 162 km proximity with the Vaca Muerta area. In addition, due to its geographical location, we can say it is similar to a Continental Patagonian Panama Canal”, said Fernando Montero, CEO of Zapala Free Trade Zone. He added that the pole will seek to prop up trade and industrial export activity by reducing costs, which in some cases are estimated at up to 50% of current values.

The new Free Trade Zone is of great relevance for the Neuquén Province since it is located less than 180 km from the provincial capital, just 160 km from Añelo (Vaca Muerta) and close to important towns such as San Martín de Los Andes, Caviahué and Pino Hachado International Pass. This venture is expected to generate some 2,000 new jobs – direct and indirect – when fully operational.

The enclave will also link the deepwater ports of Concepción, in Chile, with those of Buenos Aires and Bahía Blanca, the latter by train (through the Bahía Blanca-Zapala cargo line) and by route (RN22 and RN40, with linkages with RP13, RP14, RP16 and RP46). Likewise, Zapala has a newly remodelled airport with a 2,400 meter plane track that will allow aerial access.

The Free Trade Zone will be administered for 30 years as dictated by law (Resolution 277/2018, published in the Official Gazette of the Argentine Republic, based on Law 24,331), with the possibility of extending the contract for another 10 years, by a UTE (Transitional Union of Companies) constituted by Servicios y Consultoría SA, Zona Franca Zapala SA, Argent-Pat SRL, Codesín SA, Petro Neu SA and MyP Fundaciones Especiales.