PEMEX Announces New Discovery in Deep Waters of Gulf of Mexico
Navarro, Carlos, SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico
The state-run oil company PEMEX has announced the discovery of a large reserve of crude oil in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, a development that adds credibility to the theory that a massive supply of oil exists in the region just south of Mexico's maritime border with the US. PEMEX discovered the new reserve while conducting tests on the Supremus-1 well, about 250 km east of Matamoros, Tamaulipas state. President Felipe Calderon, who announced the discovery on Oct. 5, said tests indicate the well might contain between 75 million and 125 million barrels of reserves.
Reserve near another recently discovered field
This is the second time this year that PEMEX has discovered a major reserve in the region. Exploratory drilling in the nearby Trion-1 well in August resulted in the discovery of a crude reserve of about 350 million barrels. PEMEX had been conducting tests in the Perdido Fold Belt, which includes the Trion-1 and Supremus-1 wells (SourceMex, May 16, 2012).
Calderon said the findings are supported by new drilling and scientific studies, and the presence of huge reserves next to each other supports the theory that a "huge oil system" exists in the region. The total amount of oil in the Perdido Fold Belt is estimated at between 4 billion and 13 billion barrels, the president said.
If the estimates were added to Mexico's total oil supplies--which included proven, potential, and possible reserves--the total would increase to between 46 billion and 55 billion barrels. In a best-case scenario, if the 13 billion barrels of crude become proven reserves, the supply in the area would "more than double the proven reserves" of PEMEX, Calderon said.
The strong emphasis on deepwater exploration is key to preserving the viability of Mexico's oil industry. The country's leading source of crude oil, the Cantarell Reserve, has dwindled significantly since 2004, when production reached a peak of 3.4 billion barrels per day (bpd). The sharp decline in Cantarell led to some forecasts that Mexico could become a net importer of oil by 2030 (SourceMex, March 7, 2007). Mexico's reserves had been declining since 1979, but the Calderon government said the trend was reversed in 2010, when proven reserves increased because of investments made in exploration.
Many critics have accused former President Vicente Fox (2000-2006) of overexploiting Cantarell to boost the government's coffers and fund a bloated bureaucracy (SourceMex, April 7, 2010). It was also under Fox that Mexico intensified exploration efforts in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico (SourceMex, March 19, 2003, and March 22, 2006).
Calderon continued the effort to boost deepwater exploration, with his long-term energy plan for 2012-2026 proposing a major expansion in drilling (SourceMex, March 7, 2012). The plan, however, assumes that Mexico will be able to obtain the necessary investments and technology to accomplish that goal. Under Calderon's watch, PEMEX has also discovered large reserves of natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico (SourceMex, June 1, 2011)
Private investment needed to extract oil
The energy-reform package approved by the Congress in 2008 (SourceMex, Oct. 29, 2008) to allow private investment in PEMEX projects has enabled the company to begin discussions with US companies (SourceMex, Feb. …