HOUSTON (Reuters) - A former Petroleos Mexicanos [PEMX.UL] board member said on Wednesday Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has enough political support to change the nation’s energy law and should postpone planned competitive oil auctions until the law is revised.
Fluvio Ruiz Alarcon said, following an address at the Baker Institute of Public Policy, the new administration would have the clout in congress to roll back portions of the nation’s landmark energy reforms that opened its oil fields to foreign investment.
Lopez Obrador, who takes office on Dec. 1, handily won Mexico’s presidential election in part by promising sweeping changes to Mexico’s energy industry. One of his aims is to have the state-owned oil company, known as Pemex, select partners instead of having them chosen in auctions run by Mexico’s National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH).
“Pemex should choose its own allies,” said Ruiz. “The hydrocarbon law says that it is CNH that makes the bidding for the alliance of Pemex. They say, ‘Who wants to marry Pemex?’ They say, ‘Who offers more?’ We want Pemex to choose.”
He also said Mexico should postpone the competitive tenders for Pemex joint ventures scheduled for February until the law is changed.
The Feb. 14 oil auctions are the only ones scheduled and cover 46 onshore blocks in northern Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states, including the first shale areas.
The February tender would also feature seven opportunities to tie up with Pemex on onshore projects in the southern states of Veracruz, Tabasco and Chiapas.
The auctions were originally scheduled this year in the waning months of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s term, but were postponed by the National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH), Mexico’s independent oil regulator which runs auctions and supervises the contracts.
When it announced the later date, CNH officials said they wanted to give interested oil companies more time to evaluate the projects. They also expressed a desire to work with the incoming administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
To date, 17 companies have begun the process of pre-qualifying for the auctions while another eight have done so for the Pemex joint ventures.
Reporting by Collin Eaton in Houston; Additional reporting by David Alire Garcia in Mexico City; Editing by Richard Chang