September 3, 2013
By Michael Soltys
Is Vaca Muerta ‘condemned to success’?
Far from being a “dead cow,” the Patagonian shale deposits of Vaca Muerta lead a charmed life in the eyes of local enthusiasts — virtually “condemned to success” in ex-president Eduardo Duhalde’s famous phrase. When you are sitting on what are often described as one of the world’s three biggest shale fields, you can do pretty much what you like in the name of sovereignty, it is assumed — for up to 60 billion barrels, greed will find its way in a market used to working its way around rogue governments.
Here for the Shale Gas World Argentina summit between yesterday and today, Dr. Bernard “Bud” Weinstein (from the Maguire Energy Institute and the Cox School of Business in Dallas) has problems pronouncing “Neuquén” but throws a useful outside perspective on local notions that possession of a raw material is nine-tenths of the law.
At least five factors are essential for the successful exploitation of shale, he insists — geology, technology, pricing, capital (including the human as well as financial capital, the expertise) and policy as perhaps the most important of the five. And if these conditions are not fulfilled, investors have no lack of other options — including the heartland of capitalism, the United States (where 37 of the 50 states have fuel in some form)....