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Shale Revolution Spreads to the South

The U.S. pioneered shale gas and oil. The stratospheric rise in oil and gas production from the Marcellus, Bakken, and Eagle Ford formations has prompted producers to look abroad for other shale plays. After all, the U.S. isn’t the only holder of enormous shale resources. But the unique conditions in the U.S. – huge capital markets, home of fracking and horizontal drilling innovations, and landowner mineral rights – kept the shale revolution confined to the United States. Yet, as Ed Morse writes in the upcoming issue of Foreign Affairs, because of the massive shale deposits around the world, the shale revolution will almost certainly spread abroad at some point. But where will it happen next?

The most likely candidate is Argentina. Long known for beef, soy, soccer, and the tango, Argentina may soon make a name for itself in the world of unconventional oil and gas production. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Argentina potentially holds the world’s fourth largest shale resources, behind only Russia, the U.S., and China. The South American country could hold up to 27 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 800 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

It is not as if this has come out of left field. Argentina has long been a significant producer hydrocarbons, albeit a middling one compared to global energy superpowers. It is already South America’s largest producer of natural gas, and the continent’s…

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