Vaca Muerta, polluted water for the Peoples

Vaca Muerta, polluted water for the Peoples

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By Dr. Carlos A. Seara


The terms conventional and unconventional have to do with the rock where the fossil fuel is housed. Conventional fuels are those that are located in what in Geology is known as the “storage rock”, that is, the one from where it is illuminated by drilling, where initially there is upwelling pressure which gradually decreases with the exploitation time until the moment in which pumping becomes necessary for the extraction of oil.

As fuels have a lower density than water, they travel through the "storage rock" seeking to approach the surface, until they are retained by a "geological trap" that forces them to stop on their way and accumulate, forming a natural reservoir suitable for exploitation. . These traps are generally of a structural nature, although there may be other types, even superficial, when the same oil, based on asphalt, dries up by evaporation of the liquid phase.

In contrast, unconventionals are detected within the “bedrock” or where the fuel originates. They are variegated sedimentary rocks with a high content of organic matter, generally fine to very fine grained (sandstones, marl, siltstones, claystones, etc. oxygen forms a reducing environment); in some cases the degree of compaction of the same is very high, hence the terms used for their denomination: shale, oil shale, pyro-bitumens, asphalt pyro-bitumens, etc. In these sediments, by decomposition and in profusion, droplets of mineral oil or small gas bubbles are housed without forming a true reservoir and depending on whether it is liquid or gaseous, they are called "shale oil" or "shale gas". All are isolated and will require special treatments to force them to bond and form an accumulation that can be extracted.


First of all there is room for clarification, "Vaca Muerta" is not a deposit, it is just a geological formation of the Neuquén basin and its name is due to the outcrop of these sedimentary rocks, which correspond to the Jurassic, in the Sierra de la Vaca Muerta . The surface where the formation occurs is just over 30,000 km2, with a thickness of up to 2,800 meters in some cases. However, it must be recognized that this value is not uniform and that within the same formation there are sub-basins where the thicknesses increase.

The Neuquén Basin is one of the largest in the country, covering a large part of the Neuquén province, the south of Mendoza, the southwest of La Pampa and the western portion of Río Negro. Reservoirs such as: Puesto Hernandez, Sierra Palauco, Puesto Rojas, Medanitos, Catriel, Catriel Oeste, Colonia 25 de Mayo, Signal Picada, Aguada del Chivato, Cuatro Provincias, Los Viejos, Cerro Bandera, Challacó, are included within its jurisdiction. Loma de La Lata, Plaza Huincul, etc. The basin has been recognized and exploited, fundamentally, in the northeastern and southeastern sectors, lacking exploration in the central and western zone, which is why there is a lack of data on the true potential in terms of conventional fuels, those of less complicated exploitation and therefore of more immediate enhancement.

Vaca Muerta is not the only source rock that is geologically recognized and as a sample, to appreciate what it is, it is worth observing the Hilario Formation outcropping in Calingasta, Province of San Juan on the banks of the Río de los Patos, also here they are oil shales. The attempts to obtain fuels from them only led to the contamination of the river, the main tributary of the San Juan River.

At the time, there was also talk of the possibility that the subsoil in Entre Ríos had geological formations prone to the exploitation of unconventional fuels, however, the people and the provincial legislature struggled to declare the province free of fracking. Others mentioned are formations belonging to the Salta basin and the southern basin.

Outside the country, the Brazilian Xisto is widely recognized, a sedimentary deposit with significant areal distribution at the surface level and from whose distillation Brazil has obtained, for a long time, part of the supply of fuels until the discovery and use of biofuels.

Obtaining non-conventional distillates in that country did not represent too many problems since the xisto is outcropping rock in many places.

Returning to the topic of Vaca Muerta, it is not explained how, there is the purpose of exploiting unconventional fuels when there is still a lack of development of a large extension of the Neuquén basin with much more concrete and quick possibilities of obtaining optimal results, by methods traditional, in terms of extraction and yields.


This is the name given to a method of extracting oil whose migration to permeable sedimentary formations where it accumulates has not yet begun. Its dispersion within the rock is very wide, so the method requires four essential elements: a vertical or directed drilling that is capable of becoming horizontal once located in the productive formation; availability of a large amount of water, up to 35,000,000 liters. by perforation; the incorporation of chemicals into the water; Injection of extreme pressure to allow the opening of the scarce porosity of the rock, keeping these pores open and in turn causing the fracturing of the horizons carrying the mineral oil droplets or gas bubbles.

Fracking has been known since 1860, however, its massive use began in 2002. During 2010, 2,500,000 hydraulic fractures were totaled worldwide.

In Argentina the method has been known for more than 40 years, always linked to what is here called "Secondary Recovery", a system that favored increased oil production in the Neuquen basin.

In December 2010, based on the LLL-1 well, the acronym that corresponds to a producing well in the “Loma de La Lata” field - 1, an estimate of unconventional oil reserves of 927,000,000 barrels was made, of which He said that 741,000,000 corresponded to oil while the rest were allocated to gas. Let it be clear, here there has been no special exploration drilling with a view to determining the existence of unconventional fuels and therefore the information provides a result where conventional and unconventional oils are mixed.

In February 2012, YPF raised that 2010 estimate to 22,500,000,000 BEP (barrels of oil equivalent) for a portion of 8,071 km2 of the basin. On the occasion it was also said that the explored area, corresponding to the Loma de La Lata deposit, covers 428 km2 and that in terms of reserves it represents 7% of the total basin. The information provided by YPF, according to its spokespersons, comes from Ryder Scott Petroleum Consultans, however, none of the consultancy's pages does it appear that they have carried out any study on the Neuquén basin in Argentina.

Russia has an estimated reserve of 75,000,000,000 barrels of unconventional oil, which places it in the first place worldwide. If the data for the Neuquén basin were true, the more than 30,000 km2 of this area would place Argentina in first place worldwide in terms of unconventional oil reserves with 83,600,000,000 (BEP) barrels of oil equivalent, only surpassed for the estimated reserves of Europe of the order of 500 (TCF) trillion cubic feet.

The numbers overwhelm and the official statements too, the latter take for granted that Argentina, in the world, occupies the third place in terms of unconventional oil reserves, it would be necessary to ask what is the basis of support of the information because if it It comes from an isolated drilling of the Loma de La Lata field, where it has mixed productive horizons of different kinds, in addition, it is stated that this drilling produces 4,000 barrels per day and that it is linked to another twelve wells, all of which together total 5,000 barrels per day (multiple well pad), is a tease to readers interested in learning about the reality of our recently nationalized oil company.

The figure of 5,000 barrels a day for thirteen wells, although it is inflated by propaganda, is more in line with the reality of the oil basins of our country where each time a drilling delivered 200 barrels a day, it was news to claim the first page of the newspapers, remember what happened several years ago in the Palmar Largo deposit - Province of Formosa, within the Salta basin and some other drilling in the southern basin.


The formations that host unconventional oil do not have a single genesis, for this reason each reservoir requires special processes and additives that facilitate the release of shale oil or shale gas.

It is known of the existence of no less than 500 products that can be incorporated into the water with a view to hydraulic fracturing, at the top of the list is fine sand that, injected under pressure into sedimentary rocks, facilitates laminar separation, keeping open the planes of fissility with what is achieved an increase in porosity, in itself scarce, in these sediments.

Chemical additives are formulated according to the components and the granulometry of the rock layers. That is why its abundance and of which only a few are known, such as potassium chloride and some polymers. It is known, roughly, what are the needs of the land to make the release of fuel viable, they are: acids, bactericides, clay stabilizers, corrosion inhibitors, cross-linkers, friction reducers, gelling agents, metal controllers, inhibitors of tartar, etc.

Companies keep the name of the additives used in absolute secrecy as they are well aware of the contamination they cause, on the one hand and on the other, the business secrecy that dominates this type of formulations where millions of dollars are at stake. There are additive suppliers who do not even list the name of the chemical products sold on their sales invoices. This is one of the objections that environmental defenders have made regarding the use of this extractive methodology. For example, potassium chloride salinizes drinking water. An example that is well worth taking into consideration is the recommendation of the European Parliament that requests the regulation of fracking and make public the additives used in the tasks.


Our sedimentary basins have, for a long time, delivered fossil fuels with regulated upwelling pressure, however, little by little it was necessary to increase extraction based on a sustained and growing demand, thus introducing secondary recovery and then when it was not enough. , the tertiary because each well, on average, produces between 5 and 10 barrels per day. With the intention of increasing production, water or gas is injected under pressure, which is later recovered by approximately 50%, together with the oil that is extracted from the rock.

In tertiary recovery, also called enhanced recovery, miscible chemicals such as polymers and surfactants are incorporated into the water or steam.

The use of these methods, especially in the Neuquén basin, has led to the possibility of using fracking due to some similarities in the procedures of both. In this case, it was already commented that there are around 500 chemicals used, of which little and nothing is known.

Fracking differs, among other things, from traditional oil drilling in that the machines are mounted on a platform advancing vertically until reaching the geological formation that carries the shale oil or shale gas, positioned at depth, about 3,000 meters, the The machine, from that moment on, operates horizontally, entering the “bedrock” up to a distance of 1000 or 2000 meters. Radial perforations start from the main well, a maximum of 6, so that from each platform a space of 2 km radius is intervened not only in depth, but also on the surface due to the development of a secondary network of supply roads, installation of tanks storage, infrastructure network laying, etc.

The surface is rendered useless for any other need.


The advance of fracking in the world has awakened a wave of uncertainty in society as we do not know what we are facing and will face in the future, in environmental matters.

The different chemical products incorporated in the process are of doubtful innocuousness not only due to the quantity and variability of their formulations but also because of the reactions that they will provoke against the composition of the rock, the release of heavy metals, their miscibility in the groundwater, the dispersion in it, the contamination of the distribution water to the populations, the affectation of the soil and subsoil with discharges of difficult or impossible natural degradation, the gaseous emanations where methane, nitrogen and nitrogen play a very important role. carbon dioxide.

In the face of aggressions to the environment, the specially developed world has been on guard and this is how results of studies and investigations begin to appear on the one hand and governments that oppose the much-mentioned wonders of fracking; just to name a few:

The Tyndall Center of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom studied and analyzed 260 products, its conclusions were published in January 2011, reaching that 17 products are toxic, 38 are acutely toxic, 8 are carcinogenic, 6 are suspected of being carcinogenic, 7 are elements

mutagenic and 5 have adverse effects on reproduction.

The study carried out by the University of Cornell, E.E.U.U. estimated that in about 20 years of unconventional oil and gas exploitation, there will be a carbon footprint greater than that of coal, exacerbating the greenhouse effect. This report was published by the Scientific Journal "Climatic Change Letters".

France was the first country to ban fracking based on the 2004 Environmental Charter. The refusal is dated 7/13/2011 and will remain in force until more information is available regarding the risks of contamination and the release of radioactive substances.

Bulgaria on 6/14/2012 joined the fracking ban.

The E: E: U: U Environmental Protection Agency associates fracking with the pollution of Wyoming's waters. Other U.S. states in 2012, they also banned this extractive system.

In Australia, the state of New South Wales was declared fracking free in 2011.

The Republic of South Africa, during 2011, suspended the license for fraking in the Karoo region.

Quebec in Canada suspended these drilling in 2011. Also in 2011, the canton of Friborg in Switzerland suspended fracking.

The city of Valle de Mena in Burgos, Spain was declared on July 5, 2012, a city free of fracking.

In Argentina the mobilizations took place in the province of Entre Ríos where the population and the provincial legislature have tried to declare the province free of fracking.

The city of Cinco Saltos in the province of Neuquén, through its Municipal Council, declared itself free of fracking, however, the Mayor vetoed the ordinance.

This summary serves as an example of the global mobility aroused by fracking and the great mistrust and uncertainty that the system generates. It also shows how the developed world intends, once again, for the pollution quota to be charged to the third world countries and if we do not see how the U.S.A. it insists on fracking in Latin America where it intends a special association of countries for this purpose.

Dr. Seara


Video: Resisting fossil fuels A winning movement worldwide (July 2022).


  1. Makani

    I mean it's your fault.

  2. Basida

    This is a funny opinion

  3. Yolar

    already have, and have already seen waited a long time

  4. Aodhfionn

    I feel sorry for you.

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