Oil and Gas

Exxon Mobil plans $200 mln investment in Argentina's Vaca Muerta

BUENOS AIRES, Sept 1 (Reuters) - U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil Corp plans to invest $200 million to boost natural gas output in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale play, a spokeswoman told Reuters on Friday.

The company has asked the government of Neuquen province for a 35-year unconventional production concession in the Los Toldos I Sur block, the spokeswoman said. Exxon Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods informed President Mauricio Macri of the plans during a Thursday meeting at the presidential Pink House.

Attracting investment to the Belgium-sized Vaca Muerta play, one of the world’s largest unconventional gas reserves, is a key priority for Macri’s business-friendly administration as it seeks to boost local energy production in order to reduce costly imports.

Last year, Exxon said it could invest more than $10 billion in shale projects over 20 to 30 years in the region. In January, Macri reached a deal with unions and companies to lower very high labor costs and attract investment, though executives note that logistics costs remain high.

Exxon’s Argentine subsidiary owns 80 percent of the Los Toldos I Sur block and is the operator, while Argentine oil company Tecpetrol SA and province-owned Gas y Petroleo de Neuquen each control 10 percent. (Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)