Mexico's oil regulator fires 18 employees from contract oversight unit

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s oil regulator fired 18 employees on Friday that formed part of a unit responsible for supervising some 100 exploration and production contracts won at auction by private companies including U.S.-based Exxon Mobil Corp and Britain’s BP.

The unit also oversees plans for several hundred leases belonging to state oil company Pemex.

The regulator, known as the National Hydrocarbons Commission or CNH, said in a statement the decision to terminate the 18 employees was due to a “lack of respect” for supervisors and not “adhering to the rules.”

The former employees are under investigation and the supervision of contracts will not be affected, the statement said.

Foreign and private oil companies have to date invested about $3.6 billion in their contracts since the first auctions were launched in 2015, according to CNH data, following a landmark energy reform two years earlier that ended Pemex’s decades-long monopoly.

About 30 of the contracts won at auction are already in the production phase.

“I hope these (personnel) changes don’t delay the approvals that are in process, and as a consequence, the work and investments that have already been approved,” said Mexico City-based oil consultant Layla Vargas.

Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Tom Brown and David Gregorio