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A new report released by the US Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that shale formations in Uruguay's Norte basin hold 13.3Tf3 (368Bm3) of technically recoverable natural gas.
According to the report, the Devonian Cordobés formation could also hold recoverable reserves of 508Mb of oil.
The government is currently working on the development of an offshore LNG import plant in conjunction with neighboring Argentina, as well as studying the feasibility of importing gas from Bolivia via pipeline.
New oil and gas finds would help reduce dependence on imports. Service disruptions have caused the loss of up to 15% of supplies to Uruguay across the Río de la Plata in recent winters as Argentina struggles to cope with domestic demand.
Dallas-based Schuepbach Energy is currently involved in exploration work in the Norte basin area as part of a two-year exploration contract signed with state oil company Ancap in October 2009.
The NOC has also announced its own intention to begin drilling in the northwest of the country before the end of this year, and has set aside US$15mn for onshore E&P over the coming years.
A similar study released earlier this year by the US Energy Information Agency estimated Uruguay's total shale gas potential in terms of technically recoverable resources at 21Tf3, the sixth biggest in the region.
The USGS report concentrates solely on the Devonian Cordobés formation, the principal hydrocarbons-bearing rock formation in Uruguay's Norte basin, and an extension of the Paraná basin in southern Brazil.