eia.gov: Mexico Country Analysis Brief

Mexico produced an average of 2.96 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of total oil liquids during 2011. Crude oil accounted for 2.55 million bbl/d, or 86 percent of total output, with the remainder attributable to lease condensate, natural gas liquids, and refinery processing gain.

According to the Oil & Gas Journal (OGJ), Mexico had 10.2 billion barrels of proven oil reserves as of the end of 2011. Most reserves consist of heavy crude oil varieties, with the largest concentration of reserves occurring offshore in the southern part of the country, especially in the Campeche Basin. There are also sizable reserves in Mexico’s onshore basins in the northern parts of the country.

Mexico nationalized its oil sector in 1938, and Petroleós Mexicanos (PEMEX) was created as the sole oil operator in the country. PEMEX is the largest company in Mexico and one of the largest oil companies in the world.

Most of Mexico’s oil production occurs in the Bay of Campeche of the Gulf of Mexico, near the states of Veracruz, Tabasco, and Campeche.

The two main production centers in the area include Cantarell and Ku-Maloob-Zaap (KMZ), with additional increased volumes coming from the fields off the coast of Tabasco state. In total, approximately 1.9 million bbl/d — or three-quarters — of Mexico’s crude oil is produced offshore in the Bay of Campeche. Due to the concentration of Mexico’s oil production offshore, any tropical storms or hurricanes passing through the area can disrupt oil operations.

Over half of Mexico’s oil production comes from two offshore fields in the northeastern region of the Bay of Campeche, Ku-Maloob-Zaap (KMZ) and Cantarell. Another quarter of Mexico’s oil production occurs further to the southwest in the same bay, offshore Tabasco state. Most of the oil produced at KMZ and Cantarell is heavy and marketed as the Maya blend, while the oil produced offshore Tabasco is of a lighter grade.

Cantarell was once one of the largest oil fields in the world, but its output has been declining dramatically for almost a decade. Production at Cantarell began in 1979, but stagnated due to falling reservoir pressure. In 1997, PEMEX developed a plan to reverse the field’s decline by injecting nitrogen into the reservoir to maintain pressure, which was successful for a few years. However, production at Cantarell fell rapidly beginning in the middle of the last decade — initially at extremely rapid rates, and more gradually in recent years. In 2011, Cantarell produced 500,000 bbl/d of crude oil, which was roughly 10 percent below the 2010 level and more than 75 percent below the peak production level of 2.1 million bbl/d that was reached in 2004. As production at the field has declined, so has its relative importance to Mexico’s oil sector: Cantarell accounted for less than 20 percent of Mexico’s total crude oil production in 2010, compared with 63 percent in 2004.

Meanwhile, KMZ, which is adjacent to Cantarell, has emerged as Mexico’s most prolific field. Production doubled between 2006 and 2009, when it reached 810,000 bbl/d, as PEMEX employed a nitrogen re-injection program similar to that used at Cantarell. Production has grown more gradually since then, and currently stands at approximately 860,000 bbl/d. PEMEX hopes to increase output further over the next few years, including through the development of the 100,000-bbl/d Ayatsil satellite field, though views differ about whether or not the KMZ complex has already reached its peak level.

Mexico’s other center of offshore production is to the southwest in the Bay of Campeche, near the state of Tabasco. There the Abkatun-Pol-Chuc and Litoral de Tabasco projects, which each consist of several smaller fields, together accounted for 560,000 bbl/d in 2011. The production trajectories of the two field complexes differ considerably. Output from Litoral de Tabasco has increased from less than 200,000 bbl/d in 2008 to over 300,000 bbl/d thus far in 2012, thereby offsetting some of the declines witnessed in Cantarell. Litoral de Tabasco also includes the promising Tsimin and Xux discoveries, which according to some sources could contain up to 1.5 billion barrels of total reserves. Production from Abkatun-Pol-Chuc, on the other hand, has declined considerably from peak levels achieved in the mid-1990s, when output exceeded 700,000 bbl/d.

Mexico is believed to possess considerable hydrocarbon resources in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, which have not yet been commercially developed. PEMEX has been drilling deepwater exploratory wells since 2006, and made its first significant find in the Perdido Fold Belt, near the U.S. border, in August 2012.

Onshore fields represent only around 25 percent of Mexico’s total crude oil production. Most of this production consists of light or superlight oil in the southern part of the country, especially in the states of Tabasco and Veracruz, where more than 80 percent of Mexico’s onshore production occurs. The largest oilfield in the south is Samaria-Luna, which produced about 200,000 bbl/d in 2010.

EIA expects Mexican oil production to continue declining over the next decade, assuming no dramatic changes in policy or technology.

According to OGJ, Mexico had 17.3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven natural gas reserves as of the end of 2011, a sharp increase of more than 5 Tcf from the year before.

Mexico produced an estimated 1.8 Tcf of dry natural gas in 2011, according to revised figures, which represents a slow rate of decline from the year before. Preliminary Mexican government data suggest that natural gas production has continued to fall in 2012. Part of the decline is due to a divergence in the prices for natural gas and crude oil, which encouraged PEMEX to favor exploitation of the latter.

Regulatory bodies report that approximately 250 Bcf of natural gas was vented and flared in 2011. More than half of the country’s venting and flaring occurred at Cantarell.

North American natural gas trade, 2010-2035 (trillion cubic feet).png

Mexico meets some of its natural gas demand through LNG, but the volume of its imports fell by roughly 20 percent in 2011 as pipeline imports from the United States grew dramatically. According to data from the International Energy Agency, Mexico imported roughly 42 percent of its LNG from Qatar, 28 percent from Nigeria, and 16 percent from Peru, and smaller volumes from Indonesia and elsewhere. Mexico’s LNG supply mix has changed in recent years, as increased volumes from Qatar displaced LNG from Egypt, Trinidad and Tobago, and most notably Nigeria, which had been Mexico’s largest source of LNG.


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