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Argentina government to send LNG bill to Congress in coming months

(Reuters) - Argentina's Economy minister Sergio Massa said on Thursday that the government was readying an LNG bill to send to Congress in the coming months, amid a push to create a major gas export sector in the country.

The bill aims to spur the multi-billion-dollar investments needed to exploit Argentina's massive LNG reserves, as the war in Ukraine spikes global demand.

Companies like state-owned YPF have shown interest in building plants to liquify gas from Argentina's vast Vaca Muerta shale basin, the world's second largest unconventional gas reserve and the fourth largest shale oil reserve.

Massa told business leaders that he hoped Congress would discuss the LNG bill in coming extended or extraordinary sessions, and that the government would also announce a series of decrees to accompany the bill.

Amid a prolonged financial crisis and a series of market regulations imposed by the center-left government, companies have asked the government to provide certainty that LNG export commitments will be honored once the expensive LNG plants are built.

They have also requested tax and exchange benefits.

In a few years, the development of Vaca Muerta, an area the size of Belgium located in the Patagonian province of Neuquen, could help the country reverse a $5 billion energy deficit and become a net energy exporter, private estimates show.

Last September, President Alberto Fernandez said during a trip to Houston that the law would offer "certainties to investments destined for energy production and fundamentally to the construction of gas liquefaction plants."

Massa on Thursday also said that Argentina's economy, racked by high inflation, is likely next year to grow "much more" than the 2% forecast in the official 2023 budget, on the back of the energy and construction sectors.

(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski, Editing by William Maclean)


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