Unconventional Gas in Argentina: Will it become a Game Changer?

Argentina is a country blessed with significant unconventional gas resources. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), risked shale gas in place is estimated at 802Tcf, and it also possesses world-class plays, the largest of which is the well-known Vaca Muerta (“Dead Cow”) formation. Argentina also has important tight-sands gas resources. Some of these unconventional gas resources have already been transformed into reserves and production. In 2015, unconventional gas production reached 235.5 Bcf (6.7 Bcm), accounting for 15.5% of the country’s total production, almost 73% of which was from tight-sands gas. Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas has large potential, but requires continuous and significant investment. Shale production in Argentina is still in its early infancy stage, despite the efforts and steady progress already made by YPF and its partners (particularly, in Loma Campana), as well as by other local and international companies. Until recently, Vaca Muerta has been mostly an oil story, and less of a gas story. The majority of the shale pilots and development activity on the formation has focused on oil prone areas. According to YPF, the Loma Campana full field development is expected to produce only 3 MMm3 /d (1.1 Bcma) of gas (and 50 Bbl/day of oil) spread over 1,500 wells. For unconventional gas to reach large scale development, in addition to the growing tight-sands gas ventures and production, it will be necessary to deliver more shale pilots and investment in the dry/wet gas zones. Unconventional gas has the potential to become a “game changer”, as Argentina’s resources seem to be rich and large enough to meet most of the country’s needs. According to a long term forecast exercise performed by the authors, summarised in Figure 7.1.1, in 2030 unconventional gas is expected to contribute 63% of Argentina’s total gas production – around 90 MMm3 /d (33 Bcma or 1.2 Tcf) -, as conventional gas continues to deplete. Argentina is expected to continue importing natural gas from Bolivia and/or LNG to meet 19% of its 2030 gas demand, in the “Business as Usual” scenario, and 12% in the “Renewables and Energy Efficiency” scenario.

Fuente: University of Oxford

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