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Argentina, Chile advance towards gas, power swaps: minister

Santiago — Chile and Argentina are advancing in talks to agree on reciprocalexchanges of electricity and natural gas between the two countries, ChileanEnergy Minister Andres Rebolledo said Thursday.

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Speaking to correspondents in Santiago, the minister said he will presentArgentine counterpart Juan Jose Aranguren next week with a draft proposal forregulations allowing such swaps.

"It would be very interesting to have a model that would allow you tosell electrons or molecules of electricity or gas at one point and import themat another," Rebolledo said.

A decade ago, Chile was a major importer of natural gas from itsneighbor, but flows along the pipelines were reversed last year as Argentinastruggles with a lack of capacity in its energy infrastructure.

Between May and August last year, Chile exported 361 million cu m ofnatural gas to Argentina, which had been imported as LNG from Trinidad andTobago and the US.

State energy firm ENAP is currently in talks with its Argentinecounterpart ENARSA to repeat the exports this year.

Chile also exported 101 GWh of electricity to its neighbor along anexisting line to northwest Argentina.

But greater synergies could be gained by balancing imports and exports atdifferent points along the border.

"This is super attractive as our country breaks up in the south we arenot physically integrated," Rebolledo said.

ENAP has discovered significant reserves of unconventional gas in Chile'ssouthernmost Magallanes region, which is much closer to Argentina's Patagoniathan the Chilean capital Santiago, 2,000 km to the north.

Argentina could export gas from its Neuquen field to southern Chile viathe Gas del Pacifico pipeline as it lacks sufficient internal domesticcapacity to move that gas to Buenos Aires.

Chile is also keen on developing an interconnection between itsnorthernmost city Arica and the Peruvian city of Tacna, 50 km away. The linewould also allow Chile to export excess solar power to its neighbor during theday, receiving electricity generated from Peruvian natural gas at night.

Broader energy integration across the region would require thedevelopment of a lateral regulatory framework. But Rebolledo said recenteconomic and political developments made it a favorable time for such a deal.

Argentina, Brazil and Peru have also gained new pro-business presidentssince the end of 2015.

--Tom Azzopardi,

--Edited by Kevin Saville,