| PUNTA DEL ESTE, Uruguay
PUNTA DEL ESTE, Uruguay ENAP, Chile's state-run oil company, expects to seal an agreement during the Southern Hemisphere's winter months to export gas to neighboring Argentina, its chief executive said on Wednesday.
The deal is expected to be similar to one signed last year, when ENAP agreed with Argentine state producer ENARSA to send gas to Argentina in significant quantities for the first time, ENAP CEO Marcelo Tokman told Reuters at the Arpel oil and gas conference in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
"We're very optimistic... Unless something very strange happens we should be shortly announcing new gas exports to Argentina," Tokman said.
The contract would be annual, he said, without offering price or quantity details.
Earlier on Wednesday, Argentina's government authorized the export of up to 350,000 cubic meters (12.4 million cubic feet) of natural gas to neighboring Uruguay in the next two years.
Argentina will need to import equivalent amounts of gas to what it is exporting to Uruguay, the government said in its official gazette, which could presumably include imports from Chile.
Tokman also told Reuters at Arpel that ENAP was planning to tap debt markets to finance an $800 million investment plan and $200 million in liabilities.
Among the items in ENAP's investment plan is gas exploration in Chile's remote southern Magallanes region, where the company is working with ConocoPhillips to find new reserves.
"We're going to need to tap the [debt] market," Tokman said. "There's a time window where we're going to need additional financing."
(Reporting by Malena Castaldi; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Bill Trott)