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Vaca Muerta delivers gas for AP and Apache

Americas Petrogas’s (AP) Vaca Muerta unconventional gas-well in Argentina’s Huacalera block hit gas shows

Operated by AP’s joint-venture partner Apache Argentina, the well, drilled to a depth of 4,100 metres, was its first on the acreage.

While the main target was the Vaca Muerta shale formation, it found evidence of gas within several other formations, including Mulichinco and Quintuco. The discoveries have been reported to the Argentine authorities, while AP and Apache plan to analyse the data retrieved from the well.

Canada-based AP expects the results to be ready by the third quarter of the year, adding that the data will help it decide how best to develop its tight- and shale-gas, as well as shale-oil potential.

Huacalera covers 250,000 acres in the western sector of Argentina’s prolific Neuquén basin. AP has a 39% stake in the block, with US independent Apache holding the rest.

AP chief executive Barclay Hambrook said the block is “promising” and that he is “very pleased” with the project’s progress. He added that the Vaca Muerta shale formations have similar characteristics to US shale plays, such as Eagle Ford, Haynesville and Horn River. The shale covers an area of around 8,500 square miles; varies in depth to between 5,500 and 14,000 feet; and in places is up to 2,000 feet thick.

Apache advances

In May, Apache said a tight-gas well it was drilling in a separate sector of the Vaca Muerta yielded 7 million cubic feet a day (cf/d) of gas. Apache is developing the project with Pampa Energia, Argentina's biggest power producer, which holds a 15% stake and has agreed to buy some of the gas produced.

The well, at the Anticlinal Campamento field in Neuquén, is one of 70 unconventional-gas wells Apache has drilled in the region since 2008.

Argentina’s overall tight-gas reserves are unknown, but the US government has estimated the country could have 774 trillion cf of recoverable shale-gas reserves. Proved conventional gas reserves amount to 13 trillion cf, according to Cedigaz. Significant unconventional oil and gas resources have been discovered in the last year.

In July, independent explorer Madalena Ventures said it found evidence of both oil and gas in a 11,000 foot test well drilled in the Vaca Muerta and Sierras Blancas formations. Madalena chief executive Dwayne Warkentin said the well results proved the Vaca Muerta shale play was “an excellent resource base”.

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