Emerging Unconventionals in Argentina

/Portals/1/Images/IEnergyImages/Publishing/STEPS/Steps_sized.jpgBy Dr. Clare Maher

iEnergy® Editor in Chief, Halliburton Landmark



The exploration and exploitation of unconventional resources (i.e. shale gas/oil) have been a routine occurrence within the industry since 2000. The success experienced in the United States prompted other nations such as Canada to follow suit, progressively spreading to Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. So one could argue it is not that unconventional anymore. That said, it still remains exceptionally challenging to identify the all-important sweet spot and the odds are frequently stacked against you. This is especially true for petroleum basins that are only just emerging as serious contenders for unconventional resources.

Exploration and production organizations have invested a great deal of resources into gas and shale oil exploration in countries such as China (e.g. Sichuan Basin), Saudi Arabia (e.g. Rub al-Khali), Mexico (such as Tampico-Misantla and Burgos basins) and Argentina (e.g. Neuquén Basin) in recent years. All of these have slightly different logistical and geological challenges to overcome.

From a geological perspective these challenges are manifold with multiple considerations ranging from total organic content, maturity, geomechanics, minerology, natural fractures, pore pressure, and reservoir fluids, to name just a few. As the available data for shale gas/oil targets increases, data analytics is increasingly being bought to bear on modelling the most likely targets. But in order to further reduce subsurface risk, we also need to incorporate a deeper insight into the presence and lateral extent of key stratigraphic horizons that correspond to mature source rocks and the necessary frackable units that enable the hydrocarbons to be extracted.


Whilst the devil may be in the detail, it pays to initially take a step back and look at the bigger picture. It is surprising how frequently the regional context can get overlooked. An appreciation of the regional tectonostratigraphic evolution and evolving paleoclimate can provide important additional insight that, if applied within the context of a sequence stratigraphic framework, can provide a means of predicting into the white space and further reduce subsurface risk.

Landmark's Exploration Insights is well-known for its big picture perspective and the application of its unique global eustatic sequence stratigraphic model to facilitate high resolution stratigraphic characterization and regional screening.

In recent webinars by Alex Bromhead and Emma Soldevila-Moldes at Exploration Insights, the application of a workflow to delineate resource distribution and critically compare prospective acreage was described, using the Vaca Muerta Formation (Neuquén Basin, Argentina) as an example. This included the stratigraphic characterization, geochemical assessment, regional screening and high-grading, and resource estimates.

The hunt for new unconventional resource plays will and needs to continue to support the growing global energy demands and with other nations outside of North America upping their game, competition is set to increase. This is going to require an integrated approach which includes both the bigger picture and the detail into consideration to help lower subsurface risks and in doing so identify the sweet spots.

So wherever you may be exploring for shale gas/oil, this webinar explains how the workflow outputs are integrated to generate subsurface models and high-grade areas of interest efficiently and effectively.

Watch Alex Bromhead’s webinar on “Emerging Unconventionals in Argentina: Exploration in the Vaca Muerta Formation” today to learn more about how an integrated exploration workflow can help accelerate decision-making. A Spanish translation of the webinar given by Emma Soldevila-Moldes is also available here.