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Fracking activity in Vaca Muerta surged towards end of 2020

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Fracking activity in Vaca Muerta shot up 58 percent month-on-month in November 2020, reaching the highest levels of the year, according to recently released data.

The news comes as Mexico’s Vista Oil & Gas and Argentina’s state-backed YPF stepped up their investment in Argentina’s biggest shale play.

The number of frac stages in the play rose to 545 in November from 345 in October, and was in line with the activity in November 2019, according to data compiled by the Argentine unit of NCS Multistage.

YPF, the country’s biggest oil producer and number two for natural gas, was the most active with 232 stages, trailed by Vista with 196, Pluspetrol with 71 and Tecpetrol with 46.

The rise comes after an almost complete lifting of economic lockdowns (aimed at slowing the pandemic) helped revive oil and gas demand.

November marked the fourth month-on-month rise in fracking activity, a sign that companies are starting to invest again in Vaca Muerta, one of the world’s largest shale plays.

A rise in global oil prices from a low in April also encouraged new activity in the play, as has the announcement of a new program in Argentina to improve returns on gas production with higher pricing and long-term supply contracts.

Despite the growth in activity, oil production is still shy of the pre-pandemic level of nearly 520,000 b/d in March, and gas is less than the most-recent high of 144.4 million cu m/d in July 2019.

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