BUENOS AIRES, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Argentina's state-controlled oil company YPF has ratified a preliminary $550 million deal with Malaysia's Petronas to explore for oil in the South American country's Vaca Muerta shale formation, YPF said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Malaysian company will provide $475 million toward the development of 35 wells, with the remainder of the investment provided by YPF, according to the deal inked in Kuala Lumpur.
"In March 2015 the first of three annual phases for development of the La Amarga Chica bloc in Neuquen province will begin," the statement said.
Chevron Corp, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Total SA have also agreed to invest in the development of shale fields in Argentina.
Some studies show the country is sitting atop a shale bounty that could transform the outlook for the Western Hemisphere's supply and secure Argentina's energy self-sufficiency for decades.
The Vaca Muerta formation covers a total area of 30,000 square km, roughly the size of Belgium. (Reporting by Eliana Raszewski Editing by W Simon)