Argentina prepares bill to advance energy sector, including LNG exports

HOUSTON, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Argentine President Alberto Fernandez on Wednesday said his government plans in coming days to submit legislation to the national congress that "would give certainty" to energy producers and help advance Argentina's liquefied natural gas (LNG) agenda.

The Vaca Muerta shale basin, the world's second largest unconventional gas reserve and the fourth largest oil reserve, gives the country strong advantages in oil and gas markets, he said, speaking to an audience of energy executives in Houston.

"I am convinced that based on the amount of reserves that Argentina has, we must think about designing a country where energy is the central axis," Fernandeztold the audience that included executives from Chevron Corp (CVX.N), Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), Equinor (EQNR.OL), Shell (SHEL.L) and Schlumberger (SLB.N).

The energy bill, being drafted with Economy Minister Sergio Massa, will encompass LNG, hydrogen, lithium, solar and other forms of energy, Fernandez said in remarks after the event.

The South American country will have an energy trade deficit again this year, Fernandez said, but the government expects that rising output in Vaca Muerta and the construction of a key domestic gas pipeline will reverse that deficit. By 2026 Argentina would register a $13 billion energy trade surplus, he said.

Energy companies operating in Argentina hope the gas line will be ready soon, executives in the meeting said, noting that a lack of sufficient capacity has delayed some gas production increase plans and held backoutput of oil and associated-gas.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Leslie Adler and Marguerita Choy

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Focused on energy-related sanctions, corruption and money laundering with 20 years of experience covering Latin America's oil and gas industries. Born in Venezuela and based in Houston, she is author of the book "Oro Rojo" about Venezuela's troubled state-run company PDVSA and Mom to three boys.