Shale rush in Argentina as oil majors spend billions on fracking.

desmogblog: “While many countries, including France, Germany and South Africa, have banned or delayed their embrace of fracking, one country is taking a full-steam-ahead approach to the unconventional drilling technology: Argentina.”
“The country is welcoming foreign shale companies with open arms in the hope that oil and gas drilling will help combat one of the world’s highest currency inflation rates. But the government there is also facing violent clashes over fracking in arid regions of the Andes mountains and allegations from locals of water contamination and health problems.
Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation — estimated to hold an amount of oil and gas nearly equal to the reserves of the world’s largest oil company, Exxon Mobil — has already attracted billions in investment from the major oil and gas company Chevron.
In April, the government drew global attention when it announced plans to auction off more acreage. “Chevron, Exxon, Shell have shown interest in Vaca Muerta. They will compete for sure,” Neuquen province Energy Minister Guillermo Coco told potential investors on a road show in Houston on April 30th.
Argentina, which the EIA estimates could hold even more shale gas than the U.S., already has over 150 shale wells in production, more than any country in the world aside from the U.S. and China. California-based Chevron, in partnership with Argentina’s state-owned oil company YPF, invested $1.24 billion in a pilot program last year. Last month, Chevron announced an additional $1.6 billion effort for 2014, part of Chevron’s overall investment plan that could top $15 billion. The company is hoping that this plan will allow it to extract 50,000 barrels a day of shale oil plus 100 million cubic feet of shale gas per day from the country’s Andes mountain region.
American drillers have talked up Argentine shale as the next big thing. “Vaca Muerta is going to be an elephant compared to Eagle Ford,” Mark Papa, CEO ofEOG Resources told the Argentine press in 2012, referring to a major oil-producing shale formation in Texas.
….From the outset, shale extraction has led to legal disputes and protests. Apache’s wells lay beneath land owned by roughly 40 families living in a community called Gelay Ko, a name that translates from the indigenous Mapuche language to “without water.” Locals filed suit in 2012 over Apache’s failure to obtain their consent – which they argue is required under both the Argentine Constitution and international treaties Argentina has signed – or to prepare an environmental impact assessment before drilling began. A group from Gelay Ko protested by occupying Apache’s sites later that year, leading to a counter-suit against them from Apache. That group’s leader, Christina Lincopan, died in early 2013 of pulmonary hypertension at just 30 years old.
….Protests over fracking have at times turned violent in Argentina. Twenty five protesters and 6 police officers were injured during clashes in Neuquén after Chevron’s first $1.2 billion deal with YFP was announced in July 2013. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, the New York Times reportedthat year.  The demonstrations, intended to prevent those agreements from being signed, delayed the deal’s completion until August 28, 2013. There have also been signs of labor unrest, with unions threatening a strike this month over favorable treatment for foreign oil and gas companies.
The Argentine anti-fracking movement drew high-profile support in November, when activists visited the Vatican and met with Pope Francis, who was born in Argentina. After that meeting, Pope Francis made international headlines by posing with the activists while holding tee-shirts emblazoned with “No To Fracking” and “Water Is More Precious Than Gold.”