Vaca Muerta closes 2023 with record activity, additional growth projected for 2024

Jan. 4, 2024
Companies operating in Vaca Muerta in Argentina's Neuquen basin reached a record 14,722 fracture stages completed in 2023 and could reach 18,000 in 2024.

Companies operating in Vaca Muerta oil shale in Argentina's Neuquen basin reached a record 14,722 fracture stages completed in 2023, a 17.6% increase compared with the previous year. For 2024, the projected number could grow to 18,000, a 22% increase, according to a monthly report by Contactos Energéticos Foundation, led by Luciano Fucello, country manager at NCS Multistage.

In Argentina, the gauge for unconventional field activity and commercial metrics is given in terms of fracture stages and not quantity of wells or active drilling rigs.

Fracture stages in September 2023 reached 1,398, surpassing the record of 1,379 stages set in August 2022, according to the report.

For December, nearly a third (371) of the 1,125 fracture stages completed are attributable to YPF. The company also conducted Vaca Muerta operations at the southern border of the province of Mendoza, where 25 fractures were completed. A similar number is expected to be carried out alongside partner CGC in the Palermo Aike formation in Santa Cruz in the coming months.

While up for the year, the fracture stage count decreased 13% in December 2023 compared with December 2022, attributable to one fewer fracture team for YPF and the December holidays. Despite the decrease in December, the count was still 9% more than November 2023.

Other active operators in December were TotalEnergies (171 stages), Tecpetrol (165), Pan American Energy (162), Shell (92), Pampa Energía (92), and Capex (72).