The government's has appointed a politician from Neuquén Province, home to the burgeoning Vaca Muerta shale formation, as its new energy secretary in charge of reviving the country's key oil and natural gas industry.
Darío Martínez, who chairs the Energy Committee of the lower house Chamber of Deputies, will replace Sergio Lanziani, who departs after just over eight months in office, a spokesman for President Alberto Fernández confirmed.
Lanziani is an expert in nuclear matters, and Argentina has been in talks with China to build a fourth nuclear plant. However, he had been increasingly marginalised after losing two subordinates, and Productive Development Minister Matías Kulfas has been making the main decisions on energy. Local reports say Lanziani has long been at odds with Kulfas.
The announcement comes with Argentina's oil and gas industry, seen by the government as crucial to boosting exports, in a slump. The oil business is suffering from a drop in demand due to Covid-19 restrictions, and state-run drilling rig YPF SA has lost more than US$1 billion in the second quarter.
Natural gas drillers are shutting down wells due to low prices, which is putting Argentina on the path of increasing imports. The government has a subsidy programme in process to reverse the situation.
Martínez, a career politician and lawmaker, previously worked at YPF. As chair of the Congressional energy committee, he was poised to play a key role in shaping a bill to spur investment in Vaca Muerta. He is closely linked to Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner via the Instituto Patria.
The new energy secretary will now work under Economy Minister Martín Guzmán, sources told Bloomberg. That takes the role out of the shadow of Kulfas and potentially gives the new secretary more power.
Laziani was the second senior government official to leave office last week, following the resignation of Deputy Education Minister Adriana Puiggrós on Wednesday.