Vaca Muerta and Beyond

Argentine provinces offer multiple exploration and development opportunities

Anyone working in the energy sector knows Argentina’s potential for unconventional resources, particularly the Vaca Muerta Formation in the Neuquén Province.

While Vaca Muerta receives the majority of attention and foreign investment, Argentina has five producing basins with great possibilities for exploration and development, said Carlos Lambré, executive secretary of the Federal Organization of Hydrocarbon Producing States.

Promoting the Provinces

OFEPHI is an association comprised of Argentina’s 10 oil producing provinces: Tierra del Fuego, Santa Cruz, Chubut, Neuquén, Rio Negro, La Pampa, Mendoza, Formosa, Salta and Jujuy.

The organization works with the federal government and energy secretary to develop energy policy and promote investment in provinces with hydrocarbon potential.

Lambré, a petroleum engineer and native of Junín de los Andes, Neuquén province, joined OFEPHI in 2010 after a career in Amoco, TERMAP and Pan American Energy. He describes his work as a challenging and rewarding opportunity to use his knowledge and experience while learning daily from the people he represents.

“It is very satisfying after many years of work in private industry to be able to work with OFEPHI to defend the rights of the provinces where industry operates,” he said.

In addition to his work with OFEPHI, Lambré also serves as undersecretary of control and supervision in the Ministry of Hydrocarbons in the Chubut province.

Exploration Opportunities

Lambré’s positions enable him to see clearly the exploration opportunities that exist throughout the country.

Image Caption

The Rio Negro Province, known for its apple and pear production and well-known tourist destination Bariloche, is home to shale plays Vaca Muerta and Los Molles. The province holds potential for mature field development with secondary and tertiary recovery and well as exploration of tight gas, basin gas center systems and associated traps at the edge of the basin. All photos provided by the Department of Energy of the Rio Negro Province.

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Anyone working in the energy sector knows Argentina’s potential for unconventional resources, particularly the Vaca Muerta Formation in the Neuquén Province.

While Vaca Muerta receives the majority of attention and foreign investment, Argentina has five producing basins with great possibilities for exploration and development, said Carlos Lambré, executive secretary of the Federal Organization of Hydrocarbon Producing States.

Promoting the Provinces

OFEPHI is an association comprised of Argentina’s 10 oil producing provinces: Tierra del Fuego, Santa Cruz, Chubut, Neuquén, Rio Negro, La Pampa, Mendoza, Formosa, Salta and Jujuy.

The organization works with the federal government and energy secretary to develop energy policy and promote investment in provinces with hydrocarbon potential.

Lambré, a petroleum engineer and native of Junín de los Andes, Neuquén province, joined OFEPHI in 2010 after a career in Amoco, TERMAP and Pan American Energy. He describes his work as a challenging and rewarding opportunity to use his knowledge and experience while learning daily from the people he represents.

“It is very satisfying after many years of work in private industry to be able to work with OFEPHI to defend the rights of the provinces where industry operates,” he said.

In addition to his work with OFEPHI, Lambré also serves as undersecretary of control and supervision in the Ministry of Hydrocarbons in the Chubut province.

Exploration Opportunities

Lambré’s positions enable him to see clearly the exploration opportunities that exist throughout the country.

The five basins he identified with great potential are as follow:

  • Neuquén Basin, Neuquén, Río Negro, Mendoza and La Pampa provinces
  • Golfo San Jorge Basin, Santa Cruz and Chubut provinces
  • Austral Basin, Tierra del Fuego and Santa Cruz provinces
  • Cuyana Basin, Mendoza province
  • Noroeste Basin, Salta, Jujuy and Formosa provinces

Lambré noted that, while the Neuquén Basin currently receives the most international attention and investment, the other four basins have similar characteristics to Neuquén in terms of total organic carbon and maturity of organic matter and also provide opportunities for development of unconventional resources.

Companies both inside and outside Argentina see the potential Lambré said, noting that he anticipates continued investment and development in Vaca Muerta in the next five years.

“I expect to see increased investment, technology development, cost reduction and a significant increase in production of hydrocarbons, along with the development of infrastructure needed in order to support development,” he said.

He noted how investment in Vaca Muerta provides benefits to other basins as well.

“Companies are undergoing a learning curve that will be applied to and benefit other basins in the future,” he said.

Opportunities for Conventional Exploration

Lambré noted that, even as unconventional resources continue to develop, the country has important opportunities for conventional exploration, particularly in the Golfo San Jorge Basin, a sedimentary rich basin in eastern Patagonia. The basin covers the Gulf of San Jorge and an inland area including parts of the Santa Cruz and Chubut provinces.

“Although all the basins have possibilities and opportunities for exploration, from my point of view, the San Jorge Gulf basin has the greatest opportunities to increase exploration, investment and technological development, making it possible to increase production and drastically improve the recovery factor, which is something operators have been seeking,” he said.

Lambré noted that, without taking into account Vaca Muerta’s unconventional resources and reserves, the San Jorge Gulf basin currently accounts for 46 percent of Argentina’s oil production and 11 percent of gas production. The basin also accounts for 69 percent of the country’s oil reserves and 12 percent of gas reserves.

Looking Toward the Offshore

Another area of great potential lies offshore.

Companies flocked to Argentina in April 2019 for the first offshore bid round held in more than two decades. ExxonMobil, Equinor, Shell, Total and BP joined YPF and other regional companies in acquiring 18 of the 38 blocks auctioned in the Austral, Malvinas and Argentina basins.

Offshore activities are managed by the federal government, and Lambré said they hold great promise for the country

“I consider offshore exploration to be an extremely important initiative to define the possibilities of the country and to improve the expectations for the Austral Basin, where offshore activities are taking place currently and achieving important gas production,” he said. He noted that approximately 24 percent of gas production in Argentina comes from the Austral Basin.

Keys to Future Success

Lambré identified three factors critical to future success for Argentina and its provinces: policy, technology and investment.

“The challenges ahead require developing a long-term government policy and legal framework designed to allow and favor investment, both in exploration and development and in increasing reserves. We need to increase investment, improve technology and knowledge and train professionals so we can reduce costs, invest in exploration and embrace the great challenge, improving the recovery factor,” he said.

“It is important for our policies to favor bringing in technology developed in other countries where the production of unconventional hydrocarbons is very advanced, like in the United States, and that we support the training and development of our professionals both in companies and in universities,” he said.

Lambré concluded that Argentina’s potential to explore and develop conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons is tied to large corporate investments and foreign capital.

Attending AAPG ICE

Five OFEPHI members will seek investment and promote opportunities through participation in the AAPG International Conference and Exhibition at the Hilton Buenos Aires on Aug. 27-30.

The Neuquén, Mendoza, Chubut, Rio Negro and Tierra del Fuego provinces will have stands at the International Pavilion located in the ICE exhibit hall.

Lambré said ICE participation represents a great opportunity for provinces to provide information to the technical professionals and new business representatives attending the conference.

“We expect great success. Undoubtedly this will be an event of great importance to our country and will provide the opportunity to share experiences, expectations and business opportunities,” he said.

The provinces will host a special event on Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 4:30 p.m. in the International Pavilion Theatre located in the ICE exhibition hall. The event includes a networking reception and presentation delivered by each of the five provinces represented.

Lambré encouraged ICE attendees to join the provinces at their event.

“There are great opportunities in Argentina’s basins. We hope to continue to have these types of conferences to benefit our industry and to enable those interested in investing in our country,” he said.

Argentina Sessions at AAPG ICE Buenos Aires

  • Tuesday, Aug. 27
    5 p.m. – Opening Ceremony – featuring the participation of Energy Secretary Gustavo Lopetegui and YPF CEO Daniel Gonzalez
  • Wednesday, Aug. 28
    2 p.m. – Argentina Country Session – talks by the Secretary of Energy, YPF, Shell Argentina, Vista Oil and Gas
  • Thursday, Aug. 29
    12:30 p.m. Vaca Muerta Luncheon Session – talks by YPF, Pan American Energy, Tecpetrol and Vista Oil and Gas
    4 p.m. – Special Event featuring Argentine Provinces, International Pavilion

For more information visit buenosaires2019.iceevent.org

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