Former state monopoly YPF believes that a recent discovery could touch off a proverbial powder keg of development in Argentina, reports United Press International.
Tomas Garcia Blanco, the executive director for upstream activity at YPF, told the Financial Times that the discovery – in the Loma La Lata area of the country – could contain as much as 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Last month, Repsol, which owns a majority of YPF, reportedly discovered 927 barrels of oil equivalent in the region, which is known as Vaca Muerta. Garcia Blanco said the company hoped to know the true extent of the discovery in January or even as soon as the end of the year.
Many people are enthusiastic about the potential for a major shale gas and oil discovery in the country due to the large amount of resources that are believed to exist there.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Argentina has 774 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas resources in the world. That figure puts the South American nation behind only China and the U.S. in that regard.
Even with the 1 billion figure attached to the play, Garcia Blanco said that estimates of the Vaca Muerta were "conservative." In addition, he compared the play to the Eagle Ford shale in Texas, which has helped lead America's shale gas boom.
"It does seem to have some similarities to some very productive U.S. plays," Robert Clarke, an analyst who focuses on unconventional gas at Wood Mackenzie, told the Times.
If Vaca Muerta is in fact similar to the Eagle Ford, there could be a tremendous amount of shale gas production in Argentina. The Texas formation produced more than 8 million barrels of oil through the first eight months of 2011, which is already more than double the production for the entirety of 2010, according to the Railroad Commission of Texas. In addition, the play produced 139 billion cubic feet of shale gas in 2011 through August.
If the play is developed it could mean big things for Argentina, which produced 1.16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2009. That figure represented a 35 percent decline from 2008, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.