BUENOS AIRES Aug 29 A preliminary deal between
Argentina's state-controlled energy company YPF and
privately held Bridas International to jointly invest $1.5
billion to develop shale resources has expired, YPF's chief
executive said on Thursday.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in December had
come under legal fire in Spanish courts from Repsol SA,
which lost control of YPF when it was nationalized in May 2012.
"Options remain open, but any MOU has a period of validity
and that one expired a few months ago," said Miguel Galuccio,
CEO of YPF, at a press conference.
The false start with Bridas underscores the importance of
YPF's $1.24 billion deal with Chevron Corp to exploit
the Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas formation, thought to be one
of the biggest reserves in the Western Hemisphere.
Galuccio used the joint press event with Chevron to defend
the contract they signed in July, which has come under fire in a
heated election season. To get the deal done, Argentina loosened
foreign exchange controls that have been central to the
presidency of left-leaning Cristina Fernandez.
On Thursday, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets
in the southern province of Neuquen to protest the legislature's
approval of the Chevron deal. Clashes broke out with police, who
used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up protests led by
students, indigenous rights groups and workers' unions.
Environmentalists have filed a challenge in court to prevent
drilling for gas using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, citing
international criticism of its effect on nearby aquifers.
Repsol has also pressed legal charges against Chevron.