The Madrid newspaper El País dedicated an extensive note, signed by Alejandro Rebossio, to Vaca Muerto, and especially to the town of Añelo:
- "He came back, did he like the hot dogs? Yesterday it was seven in the morning and he was already eating them ...", says Norma Huaiquillán, 30, with a smile. He left his small town of Cutral Có, in Argentine Patagonia, to
Añelo, a town 78 kilometers from there, to cook in a trailer in the middle of nowhere, not far from the oil companies' camps, among pale green bushes.
- "Give us two hamburgers today," answered Maximiliano Yáñez, a 38-year-old bricklayer who two ago traveled more than 1,200 kilometers from Buenos Aires to fix bathrooms. "Now I have a construction company with 40 people. I came to make money, not to work. In Buenos Aires you work and you hardly earn," is proud who a few moments ago got out of his Volkswagen Vento with two of his workers. Norma, Maximiliano and their two employees step on the surface below which, at 3,000 meters, is Vaca Muerta, a formation the size of Belgium, of about 30,000 square kilometers, in which there is oil from oil shale and gas from shales, those hydrocarbons that can only be extracted by the technique of fracking or hydraulic fracturing.
Just as the United States is on the way to recovering its energy self-supply thanks to fracking, Argentina also hopes to achieve it with Vaca Muerta by the end of this decade or the beginning of the next. Three years have passed since YPF, then controlled by Repsol, announced the dimension of Vaca Muerta's wealth. Now, half of the unconventional hydrocarbon wells drilled outside the US and Canada are in Argentina, in this formation, one of the largest in the world according to the Wood Mackenzie consultancy. But 25 drilling rigs operate in Vaca Muerta, 10% of which are in Eagle Ford, one of the seven formations similar to this one in the US. Of those 25 teams, 21 work for YPF, 17 more than when it was expropriated in 2012.
YPF, owner of a third of Vaca Muerta, leads the investment with some 1,400 million euros contributed this year. Of these, half come from the North American Chevron, which in 2013 partnered with the Argentine oil company to exploit 395 square kilometers, including the Loma Campana area, near the panchería, and from Añelo, known as the Latin American "fracking capital" .
"We need to reach the 10,000 million dollars (7,800 million euros) per year that are needed if we want to achieve self-supply," warns the mayor of Añelo, Darío Díaz, 37, who three years ago was driving a company truck of oil services. He has witnessed how in the last two years the town has doubled its population to 6,000. Another 5,000 commute there daily to work. "[The French company] Total is doing a little, [the Anglo-Dutch] Shell is moving something, [the Brazilian] Petrobras is not moving much. The country's policy means that companies do not invest. Now the Malays are coming [Petronas will invest 370 million euros in 2015], but it is missing ", describes the mayor on board his SUV.
Questions also arise about how much of the resources that are hidden underground are economically exploitable, how the income will be distributed between the State, the provinces (the training is in Neuquén, but also in part of Mendoza and Río Negro), the companies, workers and the rest of civil society, and how much the environment will be damaged. In YPF's prefabricated offices in Loma Campana, its regional executive manager for unconventional hydrocarbons, Pablo Bizzotto, compares the geological data of Vaca Muerta with those of formations in the United States, such as the amount of organic carbon, the thickness or the repertoire pressure. , and concludes that it is a "very good quality" reserve. 8.7% of the oil produced by YPF already comes from Vaca Muerta, according to Bizzotto. "But Argentina needs not only YPF but all companies to regain self-supply," admits the executive of the company that controls 41% of Argentina's hydrocarbon production.
Much has been written by oil companies and environmentalists about whether fracking pollutes nothing or a lot. Carolina García, an engineer specializing in the Environment and a member of the Multisectorial Contra la Hidrofractura, says that a conventional well requires the injection of "no more than one million liters of water" and an unconventional one "between eight and 18 million." YPF's institutional relations manager for Neuquén, Federico Califano, acknowledges that there is an important difference, "but not everyone uses 18 million, which also represents only six or seven seconds of the flow of the Neuquén river."
Califano and Bizzotto explain all the security measures they adopt, but Mayor Díaz warns: "Oil in all its phases is polluting, but today we have more environmental disasters due to conventional than unconventional." On September 2, there was a gas leak in one of the 200 wells that YPF will drill this year in Vaca Muerta, and the oil company reported that there were no injuries or "environmental damage." "Through human oversight, gas, oil and water went everywhere," warns the mayor. "This causes environmental damage and YPF is going to have to invest a million dollars (780,000 euros) to repair it," he adds. The accident was first denounced by the Mapuche indigenous people who claim these lands as their own, although their rights have not been recognized by the authorities. It is the self-named lof (community) Campo Maripe, which is part of the Multisectorial Contra la Hidrofractura.
"In Añelo there are no Mapuches. The Campo Maripe want to be a community, but they are not," attacks the mayor. "There are two communities near Añelo but without fracking, only with conventional oil, and they are the richest guys in the area," says Díaz to clarify that these Mapuches charge the so-called "servitude", an amount of money they receive for renting their land for the oil companies to exploit. Califano, from YPF, thinks similarly: "In Loma Campana there is no Mapuche community. There is a family that presented a claim, but the national and provincial governments will say if they are. Until the development of Loma Campana began there were no claims, "he asserts.
"Yes, we are a family, we always graze here," claims Natalia Yzaza, 29, a werken (spokesperson) for the Campo Maripe community. Since the beginning of 2014, the land occupied by its 350 goats, 30 cows, 20 horses and 15 sheep must coexist with the towers, trucks and vans of the oil industry. "My grandmother came in 1918", adds the final logko (vice chief) of the community, Mabel Campo. "They have to pay for what they break," he claims. His niece, Lorena Bravo, who works at a gas station, asks YPF to "leave everything as it was." The Campo Maripe show the pools of water that come out of the chemical baths and the chicken feathers of the blankets that protect the soil in the wells from spillage but are scattered throughout the bushes. They also point to an oil-stained tower and the well where the gas leak occurred, where it still smells like oil. "They came with trucks to suck up the fuel and washed the plants with detergent," says Campo. "We respect the workers who work, but they don't respect us," says Yzaza's partner, Rafael Pérez. He, like other young people in the community, justifies that he works in the oil industry to control its environmental impact.
115 kilometers from Añelo, in the small town of Allen, the fruit growers association got involved in 2013 in a campaign to ban fracking because they fear the impact on their apple and pear trees. On the other hand, the president of the Añelo Chamber of Agricultural Producers, Fernando Galván, does not worry: "There have been no problems with the oil industry until now, since it arrived in 1978. It is good for the economy. The only problem is that we they carry the labor. In the fields (farms), the one who earns the most receives a salary of 6,000 pesos (530 euros per month) and in oil they earn at least 14,000 (1,230 euros) ".
"Dollars, reais, euros and Chilean pesos are accepted," reads a sign for Añelo's most famous bakery, San Cayetano, the employer of labor. That legend is the proof that foreigners arrive here, but also Argentines from other parts of Neuquén and other provinces. Marcelo Ferreya, 46, was a taxi driver in Plottier, on the outskirts of the city of Neuquén, 95 kilometers from Añelo. Four months ago, however, he rented his car and went to the "capital of fracking" to work as a driver of an SUV that brings and brings engineers and geologists, many Mexicans, Venezuelans and Ecuadorians whose specialties are scarce in Argentina and who find few opportunities in their countries. Ferreyra earned 30% or 40% of the 1,500 euros of basic salary that he now charges in the taxi. Now he spends 20 days in the fourth hotel that has just opened in Añejo - another four are under construction - and seven at his house, but his wife and their 12 and 19-year-old children are happy. "They saw me badly in the other job. This allows us to face expenses that were previously out of our reach, such as trips for graduates (graduates) of secondary and primary school, and clothing," says Ferreyra. Also Huaiquillán, the employee of the Panchería, thinks of his children, aged 15 and 18, whom he left with his grandmother, and for whom he wants to build a house of his own.
The oil service companies arrive in Añelo. Some 117 have signed agreements with the municipality to settle in the 250 hectares of an industrial park where, for now, six have already settled next to the dog shop. People in search of work also approach, such as the unemployed who last week set up a picket line outside the workers' camp of the North American drilling tower company Nabors, thus paralyzing work on some YPF wells in Loma Campana . "Some come and turn around, others settle in precarious conditions, in takeovers (land occupations). Most are Argentines, there are also Bolivians, ladies of the night from Paraguay and the Dominican Republic ...", the mayor details.
There are also entrepreneurs who are looking for an opportunity to buy land and build houses there to rent to companies for their employees to sleep on. Renting a room with a bathroom costs 440 euros per month. Díaz gives as an example a 400-square-meter plot of land whose tax valuation is 400 euros, but which sells for 220,000. Instead, the provincial hospital promised six years ago remains unbuilt and patients are piling up in a small medical center.
"Today YPF, Chevron, the State, the service companies take the rent," lists one of the pioneers in promoting ‘fracking’ in Neuquén, Rubén Etcheverry, advisor on energy issues in the provincial capital. "Job? It increased: there are 17,000 oil workers in the province, and there are indirect jobs, but naturally there is no 'spillover effect' (of wealth) in society, generally income tends to be concentrated, a teacher earns a third of that of an oil man " adds Etcheverry, at his home in a closed neighborhood in the city of Neuquén.
"Companies continue to enter and there is talk of a lot of investment, but social inequality is deepening, there is a big blow in the prices of food and rents for those who do not live on oil", warns the former left-wing provincial deputy Raúl Godoy, a worker from the cooperative ceramic factory Zanon, in the Neuquén capital, who a year ago voted in the local Parliament against the YPF-Chevron agreement. "It gives work, but a lot is temporary, and for now there are more brothels and halls of clandestine game that health centers in Añelo ", regrets Godoy, although he admits that, thanks to the propaganda, the Government of the province of Neuquén" has won the cultural battle "that the left and the ecologists fought a year ago against the arrival of Chevron on the basis of propaganda. Meanwhile, the YPF Foundation has launched a plan of works to improve the quality of life in Añelo, such as the two containers that it installed so that they work a few days a week as c medical clinics. Source: El País newspaper in Madrid
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