Mexico's Pemex poised to import light crude from U.S.

MEXICO CITY Fri Aug 15, 2014 12:28pm EDT

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MEXICO CITY Aug 15 (Reuters) - Mexico's state-owned oil company, Pemex, is poised to abandon a decades-old devotion to self-sufficiency in crude oil, entering talks with U.S. companies about importing light crude from its northern neighbor, where output is booming.

Chief Executive Emilio Lozoya said in an interview late on Thursday that Pemex was very likely to start importing light crude from the United States in the next few months, to generate more value from the Mexico's six domestic refineries.

Lozoya said importing light crude from the United States was "a very good idea" that Pemex was analyzing, noting that it could help the company's refining unit boost output of products it is often forced to import, including gasoline and diesel.

"We are in negotiations with the United States government and of course U.S. companies," he added, declining to name specific companies or likely volumes to be imported.

Mexico has very rarely imported crude, most recently in the late 1990s, instead preferring a stubborn self-sufficiency even as overall domestic production declined and the country's oil mix has tilted toward harder-to-refine heavy crudes.

"This makes all the sense in the world," said Luis Miguel Labardini, an oil analyst with Mexico City-based energy consultancy Marcos y Asociados, adding crude imports from the U.S. would mark a paradigm shift for the Mexican oil company.

"There has been a very big prejudice within Pemex to import crude," he said, pointing to an opportunity for Pemex given booming light crude output in the United States, particularly in the Eagle Ford Formation in Texas.

Analysts have said that light crude imports from the United States could increase gradually to 200,000 barrels per day over the course of the next year.

Pemex's six domestic plants are expected to refine an average of 1.25 million barrels per day (bpd) this year, or about 20 percent below their combined capacity of 1.58 million bpd. (Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Noe Torres; Editing by Simon Gardner and Steve Orlofsky)

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