| MEXICO CITY, March 26
MEXICO CITY, March 26 Mexico's energy ministry
aims to find a middle ground between strengthening state-run oil
company Pemex and ensuring major opportunities for new private
producers under a landmark energy overhaul, a top government
official said on Wednesday.
Under the overhaul, which aims to boost Mexico's oil and gas
sector, the ministry must determine which fields Pemex will keep
via a so-called "Round Zero" allocation.
Pemex submitted its wish list last week, and now the
ministry has until mid-September to decide.
"We have to strike this balance between what Pemex keeps and
what the nation keeps to tender to new participants," Lourdes
Melgar, deputy minister for hydrocarbons, told reporters.
"We want a strong Pemex," said Melgar, who along with the
country's energy minister, sits on Pemex's board of directors.
"A vision that aims to shrink Pemex would be very negative and
is not an option."
Once Round Zero is complete, Mexico will launch an
international bid round for oil and gas development rights each
year through 2019, each one covering about 20,000 sq km, she
Details of Pemex's list have not been made public, but the
oil ministry said Pemex seeks 83 percent of its proven and
probable oil reserves and 31 percent of its less-certain
prospective resources, which includes its shale and deep-water
Mexico is believed to have 26.6 billion barrels of oil
equivalent (boe) in its territorial deep waters, and Melgar said
Pemex is looking to keep 29 percent, or about 8.1 billion boe.
The Perdido Fold Belt, a major deep-water oil deposit that
straddles the two nations' maritime border in the Gulf of
Mexico, will test the balance, Melgar said.
While hundreds of wells produce more than 1.3 million
barrels per day (bpd) on the U.S. side of the Gulf, Pemex has no
commercial production despite several successful test wells.
Melgar anticipates "great interest" when Mexico launches
future bid rounds to auction off rights to Perdido blocks, given
existing pipeline and other processing infrastructure in nearby
She emphasized that seismic studies conducted there by Pemex
does not demonstrate sufficient capacity to award Pemex all the
Perdido acreage it wants.
Melgar said it is "most likely" that the ministry will
approve Pemex's request to keep its shallow water acreage, where
the company has shown results over decades of development.
"We're thinking Pemex will keep some of Chicontepec, but we
will have to see if it keeps everything it's requesting," she
said. The Chicontepec basin is located in the eastern states of
Veracruz and Puebla and is home to about 40 percent of Mexico's
Melgar said Pemex's request to keep 15 percent of Mexico's
estimated shale resources, or about 8.9 billion boe was
reasonable. She stressed, though, that the company had yet to
show results in that area.
To date, Mexico has drilled 175 shale test wells, which
compares with more than 13,000 permits issued for shale wells in
the Eagle Ford formation just across the country's northern
border in southern Texas.
(Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Ana Isabel Martinez;
Editing by Simon Gardner and Eric Meijer)