Unconventional oil and gas reserves represent a "viable path" to energy self-sufficiency for Latin America and the Caribbean, a region that has shown a strong interest in developing those deposits, experts said at a conference in the Uruguayan capital.

The 2nd Latin American and Caribbean Oil and Gas Seminar concluded here Thursday after two days of discussions on the challenges of and prospects for non-conventional hydrocarbons, with public- and private-sector experts touting the enormous potential of these energy sources.

Nestor Luna, director of studies and projects for the Latin American Energy Organization, or Olade, organizer of the gathering, told Efe that even countries with significant reserves of conventional hydrocarbons, such as Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil, have shown an interest in non-conventional deposits.

"This exploration and development of unconventional resources depends on the resources, their financial aspects and technical possibilities," he said.

"If this were just about private operators, they'd seek out marginal profitability. But for countries like ours, this is a matter of national interest because it can be a way to meet energy demand, which is the main challenge of any government," Luna said.

In that regard, the expert pointed to Argentine leadership in projects now underway to develop massive shale gas reserves in the western province of Neuquen.

The South American country has the world's third-largest reserves of shale gas after the United States and China and some analysts say a desire to assert control over those reserves was behind the Argentine government's move to seize a controlling stake in energy firm YPF from Spanish oil major Repsol earlier this year.

"The main non-conventional reservoirs are in the Southern Cone - in the Chaco and Parana basins - and in northern Mexico. That potential exists and can be recovered. It all depends on the country's energy policies and its financial and technical resources," Luna added.

Non-conventional resources are oil and gas that, due to their location, type of deposit and/or physical characteristics, do not flow freely and cannot be developed using traditional technologies.

Extraction of these resources requires special processes that are typically very costly.

Delegations from 17 Olade member countries took part in the seminar and analyzed topics including the region's energy outlook and the prospects and exploration plans for non-conventional hydrocarbons. EFE