`Argentina could become oil independent'

Last Updated: Mon, Mar 18, 2013 05:30 hrs

Buenos Aires, March 18 (IANS/EFE) YPF, the oil company controlled by the Argentine state following the expropriation of a 51 percent stake in the corporation from Spain's Repsol, has set the goal of achieving energy independence, an objective that could be met in "five or six years", CEO Miguel Galuccio said.

"It is possible to think about regaining self-sufficiency in five or six years," Galuccio told Radio Nacional.

"It is a matter of having good planning, an investment plan, and putting all our energy into substituting (imports) with local energy, which is going to be much cheaper," Galuccio said.

YPF plans "aggressive investment" of about $5 billion for "petroleum and gas exploration and production", Galuccio said.

"We have to turn our resources into reserves that are exploitable. In 2013, 113 wells will be explored to create the economies of scale needed to develop the resources in a profitable manner," the YPF chief said.

YPF has managed to halt the decline in production after several years, Galuccio said.

Crude oil production rose 2.2 percent in 2012 after dropping 7.6 percent in 2011, while gas output fell 2.3 percent last year and 10.2 percent in 2011, YPF says.

The Argentine government seized control of YPF in May 2012, when Congress approved a bill to expropriate a 51 percent stake in the energy firm from Spanish oil major Repsol, which retains a 12 percent stake in the oil company.

President Cristina Fernandez's administration accused the Spanish company of using YPF as a cash cow to fund its international expansion.

The World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes agreed last December to hear a complaint filed by Repsol against Argentina's expropriation of its controlling stake in YPF.

The Spanish company filed the suit Dec 3, six months after notifying Argentina that it planned to take the dispute to international arbitration unless it received fair compensation for the 51 percent stake seized in its former Argentine unit.

The Spanish oil major is seeking to have the nationalization declared illegal and for Argentina to be forced to reverse the decision or compensate the company for it.

Repsol, which formerly had a 57.4 percent stake in Argentina's largest oil and gas producer but now holds a roughly 12 percent interest, is seeking $10.5 billion in compensation from the Argentine government.

The Spanish company also has taken legal action against the nationalization in courts in Argentina, Spain and the US.



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