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30 LUGLIO 2019

19:20 - Argentina


(ICE) - ROMA, 30 LUG -

Along the western edge of Argentina’s Patagonia, on an arid steppe nestled against the Andes mountains, lies the Vaca Muerta shale formation. And ever since engineers confirmed what a US geologist suspected a century ago – that Vaca Muerta, or “Dead cow,” contains massive amounts of oil and gas – the rush to replicate the US fracking boom was on.

First came YPF SA, the staterun oil giant, and Chevron Corp. Then the likes of Total SA and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. Between them, they poured some US$13 billion into exploration over the past eight years. None of them ever had much to show for it, though. Obstacles kept popping up, and production was marginal.

Until now. Last month, two companies exported two small cargoes from the formation, one of light oil, the other of liquefied natural gas (LNG), foreshadowing what industry officials say will be a steady flow of shipments by the end of the year.

It’s way too early to declare victory – any number of logistical and economic hurdles remain. But it’s the first sign that all the money and time invested might actually pay off, and turn Argentina back into the global energy provider it used to be well over a decade ago.

“The system is going to change from one of importing oil and products to one of exporting,” said Sean Rooney, Shell’s chief in Argentina told Bloomberg. “And that’s going to grow over time. It’s going to be some hundreds of thousands of barrels a day.”

Shell announced in December a scale-up of operations and, in a seal of approval for the first intensive shale drilling outside North America, Exxon Mobil Corp this month made a similar commitment. Argentina’s light oil shipments are now forecast to reach 70,000 barrels a day next year.