Optimism and Activity Rising in the Vaca Muerta

Source: Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF)
A horizontal rig working in the Vaca Muerta shale play where a number of operators and new pilot projects are expected to help spur on more development.

Confidence in the geologic potential of Argentina’s unconventional resource plays is higher than ever, which is turning the focus to how and when oil and gas producers there will ramp up commercial levels of production. At stake is whether the well-known Vaca Muerta formation will become a shale superpower—and the first outside of North America.

Its immense reserves, estimated to be 308 Tcf of gas and 16 billion bbl of oil, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and the work done so far to prove them has attracted commitments of billions of dollars from international majors BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Chevron.

But leading the pack is the domestic explorer and producer YPF. The company’s progress may offer a reasonable expectation of what the future holds.

Operating more than 540 shale wells in the Vaca Muerta and running 44 rigs at the end of last year, YPF has been by far the most active shale operator in Argentina. Eighty of those wells are horizontals in the Loma Campana field, operated as a joint venture with Chevron.

The first were drilled and completed there in 2013, and the most recent have shown an average productivity increase of 25%, a figure based on 300 days of production data. In all, YPF drilled 56 horizontals last year, showing that it has picked up the pace compared with 2015 when 30 were drilled and the 2 years prior when a combined five were drilled.

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Optimism and Activity Rising in the Vaca Muerta

Trent Jacobs, JPT Digital Editor

01 May 2017

Volume: 69 | Issue: 5