In July 2015, Wintershall also took over the operatorship of a second license in the province of Neuquén: Bandurria Norte (100 percent participating interest). Wintershall started a second shale oil pilot project. The wells in the 107-square-kilometer block are targeting promising shale rock in the Vaca Muerta formation, which is burried in a depth between 2,700 and 3,000 meters.
The exploration and production of unconventional energy resources poses major technological challenges. Wintershall is in an excellent position to master these challenges owing to its many decades of experience in environmentally responsible and efficient production from complex reservoirs, and thanks to its specialist technological expertise in the production of tight gas in Germany.
The target The Vaca Muerta formation
The wells in the Bandurria Norte block are targeting the geological Vaca Muerta formation, which extends across the central Argentine province of Neuquén. Vaca Muerta forms one of the largest shale gas and shale oil formations worldwide. At a depth of close to 3,000 meters, the formation covers an area of 30,000 square kilometers, which is approximately the size of Belgium. These layers of rock are between 150 and 600 meters thick and have a high organic carbon content. The technical characteristics of the Vaca Muerta shale rock resemble the shale rock already studied in the USA.
Bandurria Norte The pilot phase
Following a comprehensive analysis of the rock formation with the aid of a 3D seismic system, a vertical technology well was drilled. It provided important information about the properties of the oil and and the reservoir. Wintershall launched a similar project with two vertical and four horizontal wells in the nearby Aguada Federal block back in 2015. Wintershall is now benefiting from the experienced gained there in developing Bandurria Norte.
The pilot phase, which consists of three horizontal wells, started in April 2017. Similar to Aguada Federal, it is intended to drill these horizontally about 1500 m in order to connect as much of the shale reservoir as possible to the well. The wells will then be stimulated hydraulically. No economic production from unconventional reservoirs is possible without hydraulic stimulation.
Road to pre-development
In the Neuquén Basin, Wintershall is currently drilling initial wells in the Bandurria Norte block to more closely investigate the potential provided by the Vaca Muerta Formation.
Vaca Muerta formationThe Vaca Muerta formation holds one of the world’s largest shale oil and gas resources.
Significant shale gas reservesThe formation contains 60 percent of Argentina’s oil reserves and 38 percent of its gas resources.
20 years experienceWintershall has been investigating and getting to know the region and geology for the last 20 years.
Being operator in two blocksWintershall carries out shale oil projects as operator at the Aguada Federal and Bandurria Norte blocks.
Bound by tradition High environmental and safety standards are a matter of course
The exploration and production of unconventional resources pose considerable technological challenges. Wintershall is ideally positioned to meet these challenges thanks to its decades of experience in efficient production from complex reservoirs and its unique technological expertise garnered from its tight gas production in Germany.
Wintershall is committed to complying with international conventions, local laws and regulations as well as its own high standards that it has set itself with regard to protecting people and the environment. The following principle applies to all its activities: health, safety and environmental issues shall always be given priority over economic success.
Wintershall has been working in Argentina for almost four decades and has established a strong bond with the country. For Wintershall, close ties and good cooperation between industry, policymakers and the public are important for recovering the available energy resources in a sustainable manner.
Wintershall is also engaged in social and cultural projects in the Argentine regions where it works, and supports numerous local projects in health, education and culture there. Wintershall therefore takes responsibility in very concrete ways as a reliable partner.
Handling water in a responsible manner
Handling natural resources in a responsible manner, as well as the careful use and protection of natural water resources, is a matter of course for Wintershall. It has also set itself the goal of keeping water consumption as low as possible and minimizing the impact on the environment. Hence, water management that saves resources and protects the environment is part of the company’s project planning from the very outset. As well as the company’s own high safety standards and regular inspections of facilities, an environmental impact assessment is carried out by external experts for each project. This forms the basis for the project authorization by the relevant authorities.
Wintershall ensures, even during the pilot phase, that it saves or reuses as much water as possible thanks to innovative technologies or by recycling drilling fluid and circulation systems. This way the volume of water used can be reduced with each well. Then, at the end of any drilling campaign, the water is treated and disposed of properly. The consumption and the disposal of water are regulated and monitored according to the legal provisions and authorities of the province concerned.
When the projects enter the development phase, the implementation of a comprehensive water protection concept is planned so as to further optimize water management for the production plants. For example, in the production facilities in the Aguada Pichana und San Roque blocks, in which Wintershall holds a stake, it uses its own wells to extract deep formation water (no drinking water). After use, the water is treated in a processing plant and thereafter reinjected to the formation. The possibility to use these facilities for Bandurria Norte and Aguada Federal is currently being examined.
Harnessing the considerable potential provided by unconventional resources
Argentina has potential: alongside the USA, Argentina is one of the most important growth regions in the field of unconventional oil and gas production. The South American country has the second-largest shale gas resources and the fourth-largest shale oil resources in the world.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), there are 23 trillion cubic meters of shale gas in Argentina, which equals 11 percent of the global shale gas resources. Argentina also has the fourth-largest shale oil resources worldwide with 27 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe). Shale oil and shale gas are embedded in the compact rock where they were formed.
In contrast to conventional and tight gasresources they were not able to migrate to higher and more permeable rock strata. That is why horizontal wells and hydraulic stimulation (hydraulic fracturing) are necessary to extract this oil and gas. So far, around 700 shale wells in the entire Vaca Muerta region have been drilled.