Argentine president announcing huge shale gas find

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) - Argentina has discovered what it calls a huge natural gas deposit in Patagonia. An energy ministry official said Monday that there's enough shale gas in the deposit to potentially free the country's economy from limits on imported gas for years to come.

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez was preparing a news conference with company executives and Spain's ambassador to formally announce the shale gas find by the Spanish-Argentine energy company Repsol-YPF.

Ministry undersecretary Hector Mendiberry told Radio El Mundo on Monday that studies suggest the deposits hold up to 257 trillion cubic feet of shale gas.

The deposits still aren't proven and will be more expensive to extract than conventional natural gas. Shale gas operations also require much more water and thus have more environmental consequences.

The president also was expected to announce changes in energy subsidies to make the extractions profitable.

YPF wasn't providing details of the find ahead of the news conference, but state news agency Telam says there could be enough gas there to supply Argentina for 50 years.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.