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Exxon Is Going Primetime With The World's Next Shale Hotspot

Vaca muerta

The U.S. shale sector continues to be the hottest spot in natural resources investment. But news this week suggests America’s oil and gas industry may have a new rival — as shale in a completely different part of the world gets ready to go commercial.

In Argentina.

The governor of Argentina’s Neuquen province Omar Gutierrez said in a statement Monday that shale production is about to begin in earnest in his territory. With ExxonMobil reportedly about to push the button on a major project in the Vaca Muerta shale here over the coming weeks.

Governor Gutierrez noted that he was in Houston last week meeting with Exxon management. Who reportedly told him the company will enter the “production phase” on the company’s Vaca Muerta projects this May.

Gutierrez didn’t give additional detail on the specific projects that will be put into full-scale production. And Exxon itself hasn’t made any announcements — but the move to commercial production would make sense, given that the firm launched a pilot project for shale production in the Vaca Muerta last year.

If the major is indeed going ahead, it would be one of the biggest developments we’ve seen for international shale. With Governor Gutierrez saying that Exxon’s investment in the Vaca Muerta by the end of 2017 will have already amounted to a full $750 million. Related: Will Autonomous Cars Transform The Energy Industry?

The Governor also said Exxon plans to ramp up production quickly here — noting that the major aims to hit 5 million cubic meters (176.5 million cubic feet) per day over the next two to three years.

That kind of production growth would clearly point to Argentina as the “next big thing” in shale. And would show that local gas pricing — where producers are currently being offered $7.50/MMBtu — is working in supporting development.

Watch for confirmation from Exxon on plans for the Vaca Muerta. And for increasing activity in the play, with a tender for 56 new oil and gas blocks here currently in market by Argentina officials.

Here’s to being next.

By Dave Forest

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