Argentina will begin exporting natural gas to Chile before 2018 end
Chilean companies are in talks to sign import contracts and the first gas shipment through Los Andes could occur in October.
Argentina will begin exporting natural gas to Chile before the end of the year, energy ministers in both countries said on Thursday, as the production of the unconventional Vaca Muerta field increases.
Both South American nations had previously signed agreements that allowed the export of gas or electricity in emergency situations but demanded that an equivalent amount is reimported within a period of twelve months.
Chilean companies are in talks to sign import contracts and the first gas shipment through Los Andes could occur in October or November of this year, Chile's energy minister Susana Jiménez said.
"We see there a great opportunity for mutual benefit," said the official in an interview in the Argentine city of Bariloche during a Meeting of Energy Ministers of the G20. Jiménez added that the gas could come from both the Neuquén basin, home to Vaca Muerta, and from the Austral basin in southern Argentina.
The gas could be used to generate electricity, replace imports from other sources or to heat homes in areas where families still depend on firewood, a source of pollution in the central-southern region, said the minister. Chile produces few own hydrocarbons.
Exports without restrictions would mark a turning point in energy trade in the region. Argentina was once a major supplier of natural gas to Chile, but it triggered a diplomatic crisis in the mid-2000s by cutting shipments when their own supplies ran out.
Argentina ranks first in global reserves of shale gas, but remains a net importer of energy. Since he took office in December 2015, President Mauricio Macri has tried to make labor standards more flexible and increase infrastructure to attract investment.
The increase in Vaca Muerta production could help the country export more than it imports by 2021, said Argentina's energy minister, Juan José Aranguren.