Latin America has been endowed with some of the most expansive unconventional hydrocarbon plays on the planet. In terms of shale gas alone, the region is home to almost 30% of the technically recoverable reserves in the world. However, with the exception of Argentina, this potential has so far not translated into larger proven reserves and rising production levels.

The main obstacle is strong opposition in several countries to the method of extraction of these hydrocarbons. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has drawn criticism for the contamination of water sources, intensive use of water used in the process, and the rearrangements of the subsoil generated by breaking the rock. Although these risks are denied by the hydrocarbons industry, the strong opposition of environmental organizations is holding back the development of unconventional resources, especially in countries with high potential and more competitive costs in other segments, such as Brazil and Mexico, which boast vast conventional reserves in offshore basins.

Argentina has emerged as the only country in the region where unconventional oil and gas development has advanced at an accelerated pace. In Vaca Muerta, a formation comparable in potential to the biggest plays in the United States, investments in exploration have multiplied and production tripled last year with respect to 2017. Meanwhile, countries such as Colombia and Bolivia, which have had a dearth of conventional hydrocarbon discoveries in the past decade, have witnessed growing debate on the merits of tapping shale resources.

In this report we will look at the degree of progress and pinpoint major unconventional hydrocarbon prospects in the region. In addition, we will identify the segment's growth drivers as well as obstacles that stakeholders should keep in mind.



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