Argentine court lifts Chevron asset freeze

BUENOS AIRES, June 4 Tue Jun 4, 2013 9:39pm EDT

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BUENOS AIRES, June 4 (Reuters) - Argentina's Supreme Court on Tuesday lifted a freeze that had been placed on Chevron Corp assets in the country, clearing the way for the U.S. oil giant to go ahead with a shale oil venture with Argentina's YPF .

Chevron has signed an agreement with YPF to invest up to $1.5 billion in the Vaca Muerta shale megafield, located in Argentina's southern region of Patagonia.

Late last year an Argentinian judge ordered a freeze on up to $19 billion worth of assets held by Chevron in Argentina as part of an environmental lawsuit by Ecuadorean villagers who say the company is responsible for contamination.

That roadblock to the Chevron/Vaca Muerta deal was lifted on Tuesday.

"The high court overturned the freeze," Argentina's Judicial Information Center, ICJ, said in a statement.

Chevron was not immediately available for comment.

The company, which denies the environmental charges and has accused the Ecuadorean courts of fraud, said last month that a final YPF/Chevron agreement should be signed in July, once outstanding trade and tax issues were hammered out.

Chevron's president for Latin American and African operations, Ali Moshiri, said then that Argentina has the world's second-largest reservoir of unconventional oil after the United States.

YPF, which was renationalized last year as Argentina battles to reverse a long decline in natural gas and oil output, aims to drill 132 oil wells at the Vaca Muerta shale formation this year.

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