Knowledge and know-how: mind over matter

At Fortín de Piedra, the Vaca Muerta formation lies 2,600 meters underground. But in the central west region of Neuquén, it comes to the surface. Diary of a study trip to a unique location.

The Vaca Muerta formation, in the province of Neuquén, Patagonia Argentina, reaches all the way from the surface to a depth of three thousand five hundred meters. In Fortín de Piedra, one of the areas where Tecpetrol is carrying out its operations, it reaches 2,600 meters. However, in central western Neuquén, especially in the area of Zapala and Chos Malal, the reservoir rock can be found at surface level, and observed and studied with the naked eye. A group of Tecpetrol collaborators traveled to these breathtaking landscapes in the foothills of the Andes as part of an activity organized by HR and VIED on a mission to get to know Vaca Muerta first-hand.

Geologist Carlos Arregui, a professor at the National University of Comahue and the group’s tour guide, said with pride, “In this amazing basin of Neuquén, we have the chance to work in a natural laboratory. All the rocks in the subsoil are readily available to be observed and studied in situ, naturally occurring in the mountain range along the west of the province.”

The Tromen Plastererwith the Tromen in the background.

Matías Brolli, Development Senior Manager CN&VM, added that, “These field trips give us the chance to see columns, thicknesses, and lithologies similar to those we have in our blocks and be able to check out a beef in the flesh, so to speak. This is our third trip, and we’ve also got colleagues from other areas, in this case Completion and Drilling. We generally invite geologists, reservoir specialists and engineers from different projects to join us so that each one can take something away with them from the field trip, which makes for very varied kinds of exchanges and discussions, depending on the specialization.”

One of the participants, Martín Rodríguez Raising, Development Geologist Specialist, shared that, “I’d been looking forward to seeing Vaca Muerta from a novel and detailed point of view, from the perspective of a professional of the caliber of Carlos Arregui.”

“It’s a great opportunity for multidisciplinary discussions between geologists, drillers, fracturing specialists and reservoir engineers, about the subsurface challenges they deal with on a daily basis. For example, to what extent fibrous calcite called true beef carbonate can make life difficult when propagating a fracture,” explained Matías. Carlos added that, "This industry is a shining example of teamwork, as all the elements in the chain have to know what the others are doing in order to achieve success in operations."

A rocky outcrop of Vaca Muertaby the Mallín de los Caballos stream.

Another member on the trip, Brenda Fidda, Development Geologist Analyst, explained that, “We were able to describe and analyze different rock cuttings. For instance, we examine their heterogeneities, which are reflected during well drilling and completion. It was a highly valuable experience as it helps us better interpret the features of the rock we’re dealing with, something we usually infer using indirect records such as well logs or seismic surveys.”

Matías made a point of emphasizing the human aspect of the meetings: "It's a great opportunity to get to know each other, as you’re pretty much living together for three days, establishing relationships that will be very positive for future exchanges of ideas and information." Martin added that, “We spent this trip working alongside colleagues from other basins, blocks and countries. It helped us to get to know each other better, explain what we do and listen to each other.” For Brenda, "It was really good to chat with engineers from other areas, as we were able to analyze different aspects that in an operation can translate into improving parameters and approaches."

Holding a piece of Vaca Muerta.-

Three days. Fifteen people in the north of Neuquén, based in the city of Chos Malal. "Not all productive basins offer you the opportunity to observe the rock and formation up close, and get an idea of the magnitude of the elements you work with every day," noted Carlos, summing up the unique aspect of this experience for his group of visitors to northern Neuquén.

Experience at Fortín de Piedra

Energy connects us