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Argentina Turns to Next Shale Partners as Chevron Triples Output

Petroliam Nasional Bhd. is among a group of producers looking to enter Argentina’s nascent shale boom, according to state-owned oil company YPF SA.

Petronas, as Malaysia’s state oil and gas company is known, is negotiating a binding deal with YPF to develop an area in southwestern Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale formation after signing a preliminary accord Feb. 18, Doris Capurro, YPF’s director of communications, said.

“We are continuing conversations” with Petronas, Doris Capurro, YPF’s communications director, said in an interview in La Jolla, California yesterday. “They are very interested in what we are doing in Vaca Muerta, like many other companies we are holding talks with.”

Argentina is seeking partners to develop Vaca Muerta, an area the size of Belgium that holds at least 23 billion barrels of oil, according to a survey by Ryder Scott, in a bid to become energy independent. YPF’s output from the Loma Campana area in Vaca Muerta rose to 12,800 barrels a day from 4,200 after investing $1.2 billion in a pilot year with Chevron Corp.

The company, which President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner expropriated from Spain’s Repsol SA in 2012, is also in conversations with Petroleos Mexicanos, Capurro said, without disclosing the subject of the talks. Mexico is pushing through legislation to open up its oil and gas fields, including shale, to foreign investment.

New Find

Petronas’s preliminary deal is to develop a 187-square kilometer (72 square-mile) area called La Amarga Chica in Neuquen province, northwest of Loma Campana, where the Chevron pilot may become a $16 billion project.

YPF announced this week its first unconventional discovery outside of Vaca Muerta at El Trebol in the D-129 formation.

Capurro called for changes to Argentina’s 1967 hydrocarbons law to cater to offshore and unconventional operations and greater environmental protection demands.

“The company thinks some rules of the game should be revised to include shale,” she said.

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