January 17, 2020 / 3:16 AM / a month ago

Argentine government to float Congress bill to generate oil and gas investment

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Argentine President Alberto Fernandez will send a bill to Congress to attract investment for the production of conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons, a spokesman for the presidency told Reuters on Thursday.

The announcement came just hours after Fernandez, a center-left Peronist who took office at the beginning of December, held a meeting with executives from the main energy companies with investments in Argentina, together with the president of the state-owned oil company YPF, Guillermo Nielsen.

Fernandez “said he will send a bill that will establish a regulatory framework to allow for the exploitation of conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons,” the spokesperson told Reuters, without giving further details.

According to the state news agency Telam, the president told executives including from Exxon Mobil Corp and Pan American Energy - that the bill would be presented soon and dealt with in extraordinary legislative sessions scheduled for February.

Argentina is home to Vaca Muerta, which covers an area about the size of Belgium in the rugged southern region of Patagonia and is thought to contain one of the world’s largest reserves of unconventional oil and gas. It remains largely untapped.

The Latin nation needs foreign companies to help it explore and exploit Vaca Muerta, which it hopes will create a shale boom to rival that of the United States and lift the country out of seemingly endemic economic crises.

At the end of 2019, Argentina inflation was running at close to 54% - the highest in 28 years - and its currency had suffered repeated devaluations. (Reporting by Maximilian Health; writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Michael Perry)

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