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Shale Gas and Shale Oil Development Technologies

Market Overview

Argentina’s energy industry is experiencing significant challenges. In 2011 the country became a net importer of energy for the first time since 1984. In January 2015, Argentina’s energy imports decreased in volume by approximately 46 percent year-on-year, though lower prices and favorable weather conditions played important roles.

Shale-oil and shale-gas reserves in the Vaca Muerta formation, located in the Province of Neuquén is estimated to hold 16 billion barrels of shale oil and approximately 310 trillion cubic feet (8.8 trillion cubic meters) of shale gas, which would give Argentina the world’s fourth-largest reserves of shale oil and second-largest of shale gas.

It is estimated that developing Vaca Muerta will require between USD 70-90 billion. YPF, Argentina’s state-owned company and major oil & gas producer, signed a strategic partnership agreement with Chevron, comprising an initial investment of USD 1.24 billion dollars in Vaca Muerta as part of its joint venture with YPF. Chevron plans to spend approximately USD 15 billion to develop their positions in Vaca Muerta.

Although the YPF-Chevron had a positive effect in the industry, YPF continues efforts to attract more international partners to develop Vaca Muerta, which could change Argentina’s energy situation a few years from now. YPF has also signed agreements with Petronas of Malaysia and Dow Chemical, among other players. Recently, the GoA signed an MOU with Sinopec from China. In 2014, YPF reported an 8.7 percent increase in oil production and 12.5 percent in gas, respectively. These results are encouraging, and convey positive signs to the market and potential investors. However, overall Argentine production of oil and gas continues to decline.

There are currently approximately 300 shale wells in production in Vaca Muerta, which only compares to the U.S. and China. Approximately 107 drilling rigs are employed, the highest number since 1982, and an increase of over 100 percent since 2012.

Market preference for US technology is significant, especially since oil service companies experienced with U.S. technology and equipment are present in Vaca Muerta. US companies with operations in Argentina include Halliburton, Schlumberger, Weatherford, Baker-Hughes, Helmrich & Payne, Oil States, among others.

The U.S. Commercial Service encourages U.S. companies to contact us in order to learn more about the current business climate, market trends, and potential business opportunities.

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Sub-Sector Prospects

Relevant products/services in demand follow:


  • Biocides
  • Chemicals & Gases
  • Downhole Tools
  • Drill Bits & Reamers
  • Drilling Equipment
  • Drilling Fluids
  • Friction Reducers
  • Gelling Agents
  • Proppants
  • Sand Proppants
  • Stimulation Products
  • Tubular Goods


  • Prospecting
  • Drilling Services
  • Completion & Production Services
  • Pressure Pumping Services

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There are basically three types of end-users: Large companies (YPF, Petrobras, Chevron, Pan American Energy, Total, etc.), oil-field service companies (Halliburton, Schlumberger, H&P, Weatherford, etc.), and small local companies that increasingly compete to increase market share. The first two groups, in general, do their routine purchasing locally, either from local manufacturers, or through distributors or representatives of international suppliers, and purchase the large-ticket items through their headquarters purchasing offices. The third group typically buys from international suppliers, and seeks to take advantage whenever possible of available credit lines from national export financing agencies in supplier countries. Price and lead times are important factors.

YPF has increased its efficiency and reduced production costs by approximately 32 percent. This is also an area in which US firms can be competitive and add value to the local market.

It is key to identify a solid local partner with reputable market presence. Although some manufacturing and product distribution is performed throughout Argentina, most players and end users have offices in Buenos Aires. U.S. suppliers should consider a cultural adaptation of product literature into Spanish and seek to develop long-term relationships with local partners. Personal relationships are vital to fruitful business.

Depending on the type of product, potential distribution channels feature local suppliers of equipment, machinery and measuring instruments to the oil and gas industry. Also, a limited number of reputable services companies with interest in diversifying their service offerings could be a partner to reach end clients.

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Key Figures

Unit: USD millions








Total Market Size





Total Local Production





Total Exports





Total Imports





Imports from the U.S.





Total Market Size = (Total Local Production + Total Imports) – (Total Exports)

Data Sources:

  • Total Local Production: Unofficial estimates based on industry reports
  • Total Exports: Nosis/Exi-Net export/import database
  • Total Imports: Nosis/Exi-Net export/import database
  • Imports from U.S.: Nosis/Exi-Net export/import database

Useful Links

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Contact Information

Please feel free to contact the U.S. Commercial Service Argentina Specialist for additional information or assistance.

Marcelo Amden
Environmental Technologies Industry Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service Argentina
Embassy of the United States of America
Av. Colombia 4300
C1425GMN Buenos Aires, Argentina
Phone: (54-11) 5777-4509
Fax: (54-11) 5777-4203
Email: Marcelo.Amden@trade.gov

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