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Uruguay (the Eastern Republic of Uruguay) is bordered by Argentina to the west and Brazil to the northeast. Southeast is the Atlantic Ocean. The estuary of the Uruguay River forms the southwestern border.

Uruguay was inhabited by the Charrúa people for 4000 years before Portugal discovered it in 1512, with Spain arriving in 1516. The first permanent Spanish settlement was founded in 1624.

The Portuguese built a fort at Sacramento in 1699 and Spain then turned Montevideo into a military stronghold from 1723 to compete with Buenos Aires. It was briefly occupied by the UK in 1807. From 1811 the country fought for independence from Spain and Portugal.

Finally in 1828 the Treaty of Montevideo, fostered by the UK, created Uruguay as an independent state. However, it remained subject to intervention by Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay throughout the 19th century followed by military governments which had a dominant role until 1984, when democracy returned.

Uruguay is now relatively wealthy and socially developed. It exports wool, rice, soybeans, beef, malt and milk.

Uruguay comprises mostly plains and low hills with a coastal lowland covered by a network of rivers. The highest point is the Cerro Catedral at just 514m. Offshore an extensive shelf region dips into the Atlantic Ocean.

There are a number of sedimentary basins in the country but drilling up to now has failed to locate any commercial fields and Uruguay has no identified indigenous oil or gas resources. Its offshore area lies adjacent to the prolific Brazilian Santos Basin and it has thus seen more interest in its deep water prospects in recent years.

There are now regular efforts by the government to market the 15 or so offshore blocks designated, overlying the shallow and deep water Oriental del Plata, Punta del Este and Pelotas Basins. Onshore unconventional shale targets are also being explored in the hope of reservoirs matching the Bakken in the USA.

In 2012 a number of large companies were awarded exploration licences in 8 of these blocks but there is still insufficient evidence of prospects to assign an oil production profile to the country and Globalshift forecasts no oil or gas production, onshore or offshore, at least in the short and medium term.


Map and National Flag


Exotic plant

South America


E and P


Oil and gas summary



Land area (sq kms)

Oil prod (000s b/d)

Gas prod (bcm/yr)

Oil cons (000s b/d)

Gas cons (bcm/yr)



3.4 mm






Brief history of the country

Uruguay is a unitary democratic republic with a president and cabinet of 13 ministers. Members of government are elected for a 5-year term.

Legislative power rests with a General Assembly with 2 chambers; a 99-member Chamber of Deputies and a 31-member Chamber of Senators.

The Ministry of Energy and Mining (MIEM) oversees the industry through ANCAP (Administración Nacional de Combustibles, Alcoholes y Portland), which is the NOC.

ANCAP operates a refinery at La Teja, has a network of petrol stations (including in Argentina) and runs the offshore licensing rounds on behalf of the government.

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