If one were to write a musical about the revolution in unconventional resource development, it would be more “Oklahoma” than “Les Misérables” in that the majority of the resource development activity has occurred on U.S. and Canadian lands. With an all-star cast of high-performing players, starting with the Shale Boys led by Barnett and his brother Haynesville, a technology wildfire has blazed across the land and upset the global marketplace for more than a decade. There is seldom a day that goes by without some mention of the Permian Basin twins—Delaware and Midland—or the two-headed “Beast from the East” known as the Marcellus-Utica in the news or on the lips of interested investors.

However, while hydraulic fracturing was born in the U.S., neither the technology nor the shale and tight resources are exclusive to North America. Global efforts to develop shale and tight resources have been underway for several years, and with success stories coming from exotic locales in South America, the Middle East and U.K., the cast of characters appears to be rapidly growing.


Activity in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta, long considered the next greatest shale resource outside of the U.S., is picking up. The country’s state-owned oil company, YPF SA, expects shale oil and gas production to grow 35% as costs in the play continue to fall, according to Daniel Gonzalez, the company’s CFO, as reported in a recent article from Reuters.

The company has plans to drill 100 wells in 12 different areas of Vaca Muerta this year, after drilling costs for horizontal wells fell to $1,390 per lateral foot in the fourth quarter 2017 compared with $2,270 in 2016 and $3,050 in 2015, according to the article.

In February the company announced the ratification of Phase 3 of the Bitter Girl pilot project with its partner in the project, Petronas. Phase 3 was made possible due to the good results realized in the first two phases of this joint development of the La Amarga Chica area. Located in the Neuquén Basin, the area is characterized by its richness and potential in shale oil, according to a press release. Planned activities for this final phase could include the drilling of 10 horizontal wells and the construction of new works and facilities to transport the production of shale oil that is obtained in the area, the release said. With a joint investment commitment of $192.5 million, the phase is planned to end in the third quarter.

Middle East

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC) announced the details of its first-ever block licensing strategy that includes six geographical oil and gas blocks open for bidding in the initial round, according to an April press release. The strategy represents a major advance in how Abu Dhabi unlocks new opportunities and maximizes value from its hydrocarbon resources, according to the company.

“The launch of these large new licensing blocks is an important step for Abu Dhabi and ADNOC as we develop and apply new strategies to realize the full potential of our resources, maximize value through competitive bidding and accelerate the exploration and development of new commercial opportunities,” said His Excellency Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, United Arab Emirates minister of state and ADNOC Group CEO in the release.

In addition to the country’s conventional oil and gas accumulations, some of the offered blocks also contain significant unconventional resource potential. Four of the six blocks open for bidding are onshore, with the total area of the six blocks comprising about 30,000 sq km (11,583 sq miles). Registration is open to companies with expertise and technology in developing conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons.

Bahrain announced in early April the discovery of its largest oil field since 1932. This new resource is estimated to contain at least 80 Bbbl of tight oil, as reported in a recent article by Reuters.

“Initial analysis demonstrates the find is at substantial levels, capable of supporting the long-term extraction of tight oil and deep gas,” Bahrain’s Minister of Oil Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa said in a statement to Reuters.

The tight oil and gas resource was discovered in the offshore Khalij al-Bahrain Basin, which spans some 2,000 sq km (770 sq miles) in shallow waters off the country’s western coast. The field also contains an estimated 396.4 Bcm (14 Tcf) of gas, according to an Associated Press report.


Cuadrilla Resources announced in early April that drilling for the country’s first horizontal shale gas well had been completed successfully at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire. The well was drilled through the Lower Bowland shale at a depth of 2,700 m (8,858 ft) and extends laterally for about 800 m (2,625 ft), according to a press release.

Work on a second horizontal well through the Upper Bowland Shale has commenced at the site. Approval has been granted for drilling of up to four horizontal wells at the site. Next steps, according to the release, are to apply for consent to fracture the first well, with the company planning to fracture both wells in the third quarter.

Core and test data taken from the vertical pilot well drilled through the two shale members confirmed that the formation has a low overall clay content and is “very well suited to hydraulic fracturing,” the press release said.

Plans call to perform an initial flow test of both wells after fracturing for six months. Upon completion of the test, the company plans to connect the two wells to the local gas grid network in 2019, according to the release.