Vaca Muerta revisited 2022

The end of the year is a very appropriate time to revalue the significance of Vaca Muerta. The formation produces 303 thousand barrels of oil per day according to records from November 2022 of which 270 thousand are from shale oil and come from Vaca Muerta, 24% higher than in January 2022.

Drilling is getting faster and more productive. Make four years if a well in Vaca Muerta exceeded 2000 barrels per day it was considered a “super well”. To date, there are 25 wells that had that production for at least one month. The concept of "super well" already contemplates those that exceed 3,000 barrels per day.

The increasingly long horizontal wells (there are projects of more than 4,000 meters in length) and better drilling navigation are part of the technical keys for ever-improving productivity, compared to the best projects in the United States.

According to data from the national government, oil production reached 303,270 barrels per day in November and natural gas reached 78.04 million cubic meters per day.

In November, Loma Campana was consolidated as the largest oil field with 76,766 barrels per day. The area that YPF operates in association with Chevron means no less than 25% of the production in the province of Neuquén.

On the natural gas side, the Fortín de Piedra block, run by Tecpetrol, contributed 10 million cubic meters per day. This area represents 12.9% of Neuquén's gas production.

Pan American Energy (PAE) has Lindero Atravesado in Vaca Muerta, an area that has been showing good numbers and that last November contributed 11,800 barrels per day of oil from different rocks,

Sierras Blancas, operated by the Argentine branch of Shell. Last month it reached 9,500 barrels of crude oil per day and is one of the shale oil projects with the largest infrastructure underway looking to the future, both in treatment plants and pipelines.

US company ExxonMobil also had a good November at Bajo el Choique-La Invernada, a block that produced 8,800 barrels per day. In addition to positioning itself with its production, it had the most productive well of the month: the XOM.Nq.BdC-45(h) had a production of 2,900 barrels per day of unconventional crude.

Vista put the production of Aguada Federal in competition, the field that it bought 100% in January 2022. In November it produced 5,400 barrels per day. Its best asset is Bajada del Palo Oeste, which in the eleventh month of the year had a production of 33,600 barrels per day of Vaca Muerta shale oil.

Phoenix Global Resources, whose production from Mata Mora Norte already has weight in the province's total. The reported volume was 4,700 barrels per day, in one of the newest areas of Vaca Muerta and which intends to extend the border of unconventional oils to the north of Neuquén, in the Rincón de los Sauces area.

After Fortín de Piedra, one of the most outstanding areas of unconventional gas is Aguada Pichana Este. Operated by Total Austral (Total Energies), it has a production of 11 million m3/d of gas, of which 8 million come from Vaca Muerta. The French-owned company has a total production of 30 million m3/d of gas nationwide with its assets in Neuquén and Tierra del Fuego, reaching 36.5 Mm3/d by adding the areas where it is only a partner (and thus ranks as the first private gas producer in the country).

The El Mangrullo area, operated by Pampa Energía and managed by an autonomous entity between the municipalities of Cutral Co and Plaza Huincul, produced 6.86 million cubic meters of gas per day last November. Although at first it focused on Agrio's tight, more recently it has turned its guns on Vaca Muerta's shale gas.

Loma La Lata-Sierra Barrosa continues to provide gas for the country. Last month, according to public data from the national government, production in the block operated by YPF reached 5.99 million cubic meters per day. Also, in charge of YPF, the La Ribera Block I concession stood out for its growth in gas production. It contributed 222,592 cubic meters of gas last November. 

Both local and foreign companies are invested in the area, in the exploration as well as in the service industry, making Vaca Muerta one of the most successful activities in the years to come


Carlos E. Alfaro

Managing Partner

Alfaro Abogados is an industry-focus business-oriented law firm founded in 1998 to participate as a player in international transactions. Our firm therefore meets the criteria required by today’s business environment by providing an expedient, practical problem solving legal advice as well as the cross-cultural and legal experience required for international transactions in a global economy.

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