US oil company Chevron is planning to invest more than $500m to develop the El Trapial block of Neuquén province, which comprises the massive Vaca Muerta shale basin, in Argentina.

Through its wholly owned subsidiary, Chevron Argentina SRL, Chevron produces crude oil and natural gas in Argentina.

Chevron Argentina holds concessions in the Neuquén basin and is looking to unlock unconventional oil and gas resources in the Vaca Muerta shale basin – said to be the fourth-largest shale oil reserve in the world.

The announcement by the Argentina Economy Ministry follows a meeting held between Economy Minister Sergio Massa and company officials.

In a press statement, the ministry said: “Within this framework, Chevron, operator and owner for more than a year of said area belonging to the Neuquén Basin, received a commitment from the national government, through the Ministry of Economy, to include the Trapial in decree 929/2013, which provides the right to freely market 20% of the production of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons produced in the projects reached in the foreign market, with a 0% rate of export duties, if applicable.”

Chevron plans to commence the investment at the 283km² El Trapial block before July 2023.

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Last year, Reuters reported that Chevron had secured a concession from the Argentine province of Neuquén for shale production in the area.

The initial three-year stage involves a $65.7m investment to drill, complete and commission five horizontal wells of between 2,500 and 3,000m and 38–46 frack stages each. Chevron will also invest $13m in infrastructure.