Argentina is seeking bids for the construction of the proposed gas pipeline project from the Vaca Muerta shale gas reserves, in the Neuquen Province, reported Reuters.

The government has now launched tenders to acquire 656km of pipes for the construction of the project’s first stage, which is estimated to cost $1.6bn.

The new pipeline will transport natural gas from Treatyén, in the province of Neuquén. It will cross the provinces of Río Negro, La Pampa, and Buenos Aires, to reach Santa Fe.

Argentina Energy Secretary Darío Martínez was cited by the news agency as saying: “With this, we start the process to build the most important gas transportation work in our country in four decades.”

The proposed gas pipeline project is expected to expand the South American country’s network capacity and reduce the energy deficit.

With the capacity to transport 44 million cubic meters of gas daily, the pipeline is also expected to contribute to the government’s plan to increase gas exports.

The first stage of the construction work is planned to be completed in approximately 18 months. It is expected to add 24 million cubic meters more per day of gas into the country’s network, by the winter of 2023, a government source previously told the news agency.

Last year, Brazil was in talks with Argentina for the pipeline construction from the Vaca Muerta shale gas reserves.

The project will see the construction of a 1,430km-long pipeline from the Vaca Muerta reserves to Uruguaiana, Brazil.

From there, another 600km-long pipeline is planned to be built to the city of Porto Alegre, to connect to the gas distribution network of southern Brazil.