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Vaca Muerta discovery

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World Pipelines,

In 1931, after several years exploring the Patagonian wilderness, US geologist Charles Edwin Weaver wrote about a large rock formation seemingly rich in oil some 1000km southwest of Buenos Aires. In 2011, Argentine oil company YPF – then majority owned by Repsol – announced its discovery of massive shale oil and gas deposits buried several kilometers underground.

At around 30 000km2, Vaca Muerta is now estimated to hold the world’s second and fourth most important reserves of non-conventional gas and oil, respectively.

The discovery is providing new opportunities for local companies, including Oilfield Production Services SRL (OPS), which provides a range of engineering and construction services to the hydrocarbons sector.

“Vaca Muerta has had a favourable impact in the area and has drawn in massive investment,” said Ignacio Pascual, Administrative Manager at OPS. “We had a big incentive because the new oil and gas needed to be compressed to be connected to the main gasoducts, and that’s our field of expertise.”OPS decided to invest heavily in new machinery to expand and capitalise on the new energy revolution: “We began with Volvo Construction Equipment around five years ago,” recalled Pascual. “We tested a machine, and it turned out to be really positive and reliable, so we decided to keep investing exclusively in Volvo, which now accounts for around 85% of our fleet.”

OPS has since expanded its Volvo fleet to 20, comprised of a mix of EC220DL excavators, L70F wheel loaders, BL70B backhoe loaders, G930 motor graders, and the new stars of the show: four PL3005D pipelayers.

Pipe dreams

The OPS incorporated the Volvo pipelayers. The company started using its backhoes as a substitute for pipelayers, but found the process unwieldy and inefficient, especially as the scale of new projects increased.

“We always specialised in gas compressor plants, and the idea was to develop our work in pipelaying,” explained Pascual. “The new Volvo machines helped us with that, saving us a lot of time.”

According to the head of logistics at OPS, Alejandro Faris, acquiring the new pipelayers had a significant impact: “Yesterday on site, we were able to introduce 2800m of 24-in. (61cm) gas piping with just one pipelayer and an operator directing the procedure. Before, that same operation would have required a group of people, and seven or eight days to complete.”

Faris says these time savings also apply when setting up a new project and is a key consideration in Patagonia where distances are large and the quality of most access routes to remote areas leaves much to be desired.

“Previously, the equipment we used had to be divided in parts, so a logistical operation for a work site could take a week or days,” said Faris. “Now, the Volvo machines come fully assembled, so we can have all our equipment up and running on site in two or three days.”

“The company has put its faith in Volvo,” says Faris. “We have been satisfied not only with the equipment, but all that comes with it, including the mechanical service and on-site assistance. With new projects coming up in 2016, the company is prepared to improve and expand its fleet, and that’s why we acquired this new excavator.”

Edited from press release by

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