Argentina's Vaca Muerta could pump 1 mln bpd of crude by 2030, Rystad says

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By Eliana Raszewski

BUENOS AIRES, May 31 (Reuters) -Argentina's Vaca Muerta shale formation could produce more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil by 2030, consultancy Rystad Energy said on Wednesday, but cautioned this relied on the country solving transport capacity bottlenecks.

This could see the formation, the size of Belgium located in Argentina's vast Patagonian region, nearly quadruple production from around 291,000 bpd now, and rival leading U.S. shale oil projects Bakken or Eagle Ford, Rystad said in a report.

Argentina has been making a big push on shale oil and gas development in Vaca Muerta, hoping to reduce reliance on costly energy imports amid plunging foreign currency reserve levels, sky-high inflation levels and pressure on the local peso.

"(This could) reduce its reliance on imports and become a key regional and global oil market player," Alexandre Ramos Peon, head of shale research at Rystad, said in the report.

Rystad said, however, that Argentina needed to increase pipeline capacity to transport the crude and bolster export terminal infrastructure if it wanted to ship more overseas. It also needed to ensure it had enough drilling rigs.

"Big question marks remain, which could potentially alter our long-term growth outlook. Takeaway capacity constraints linger, and rig availability remains an ongoing concern," it said.

Vaca Muerta holds the world's second largest shale gas reserves and the fourth largest shale oil reserves. The formation is key to Argentina's ambitions to become an energy exporter, including aims to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Argentine state energy firm YPF YPFD.BA leads development in Vaca Muerta, but major global companies including Shell Plc SHEL.L, Chevron Corp CVX.N, Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N and others are also active in the area.

Rystad estimates that there could be as many as 400 new wells coming online annually by the end of the decade, with around 30 active rigs and an average drilling rate of 1.1 wells per rig per month currently. More rigs it said were required.

"If no new rigs are brought into the region, Vaca Muerta's growth rate will slow in the next couple of years," Rystad said.

Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Marguerita Choy


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