Argentina's June gas production hits highest level in 11 years

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s gas production rose to 140 million cubic meters a day in June, the highest level in 11 years, the government said on Saturday.

That amount represented growth of 5.8% compared with the same period last year.

Argentina’s treasury ministry credited the growth to an increase in production at the Vaca Muerta shale play, which is about the size of Belgium and could house one of the biggest reserves of shale gas and oil in the world.

Oil production also reached 497,000 barrels a day in June, up 2.5% from the same period a year earlier, marking 16 months of uninterrupted growth, the government said.

The government said the growth in production enabled it to boost exports, including sending between 4.33 million cubic meters and 6.3 million cubic meters of gas daily to Chile in June.

Argentina’s energy trade deficit for the first half of the year narrowed to $126 million, compared with a deficit of more than a billion dollars in the first six months of 2018, the government said.

President Mauricio Macri, who will seek re-election in October, is betting on the development of Vaca Muerta to cut energy imports and make the country a net exporter of hydrocarbons, creating a new source of foreign currency income.

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison in Buenos Aires; Editing by Matthew Lewis