BUENOS AIRES, July 24 (Reuters) - Argentina's giant Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas field has 661 billion barrels of oil and 1,181 trillion cubic feet of natural gas resources, according to estimates by state-run energy firm YPF in a presentation seen by Reuters.
Argentina last week relaxed regulations in its petroleum sector, enabling a $1.24 billion agreement between the recently nationalized YPF and U.S.-based Chevron Corp to develop part of Vaca Muerta.
Few estimates for Vaca Muerta's resources exist and YPF's is a preliminary take, but the 7.4-million-acre formation is thought to be one of the world's most promising shale areas.
YPF operates in 3 million net acres in the formation, an area with 316 billion barrels of shale oil and 353 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas resources, according to the presentation.
U.S.-based Apache, ExxonMobil and Americas Petrogas also have rights to explore in some 6.8 million acres along with YPF.
Other companies with a slice of the formation include France's Total, Canada's Madalena Ventures and Azabache, Royal Dutch Shell, the local affiliate of Brazil's Petrobras, Argentina's Tecpetrol, and Pan American Energy, controlled by Britain's BP.
A U.S. Department of Energy report has shown Argentina holds 802 trillion cubic feet of commercially viable natural gas resources trapped in shale rock and 27 billion barrels of oil, the bulk of it located in Vaca Muerta. That would make Argentina the second largest holder of shale gas reserves after China and No. 4 in shale oil.
Argentina is counting on Vaca Muerta to recover the energy self sufficiency it lost a decade ago. The government has had to spend millions of scarce dollars importing energy, eroding its trade surplus.
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