Exclusive: Mexico plans second deepwater oil tie-up in Maximino, Nobilis areas - sources

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican state-run oil company Pemex plans a second deepwater “farm-out” joint venture in the Maximino and Nobilis areas in the Gulf of Mexico where super light crude has been found near the U.S. border, two people familiar with the matter said.

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Speaking this week, the people said Pemex [PEMX.UL] would likely seek approval in June from the National Hydrocarbons Commission, or CNH, the industry regulator, to launch a tender for partners with the aim of announcing a winner in December.

“Maximino-Nobilis may be assigned in December and we hope the CNH will announce it in June,” said one of the sources. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans are not yet public.

A Pemex spokesman said the firm was looking for a partner to develop Maximino and Nobilis, and that the proposal would be submitted for approval by the board in the next few days. The CNH would then need to decide on the time frame, he added.

The farm-outs are a central pillar of the government’s efforts to lure investment to Mexico since Congress opened up the country’s long-closed oil and gas industry to private investment in a legislative drive between 2013 and 2014.

Under the farm-outs, Pemex cannot choose which company would help it develop each project. The ultimate decision lies with the CNH following a round of competitive bids.

The process allows Pemex to share the risks and rewards of expensive deepwater oil development projects.

Australian mining and energy company BHP Billiton BHP.AX in December won the right to partner with Pemex in the first deepwater farm-out for the Trion light oil field, less than 50 miles (80 km) from the U.S.-Mexico maritime border.

A separate, shallow water farm-out auction for the Ayin-Batsil field is due to take place in October.

Pemex has sunk two wells in Maximino at a depth of 3,000 meters (9,840 feet), discovering super light crude.

In September 2016, Pemex said it had found super light crude in its Nobilis-1 well, also at some 3,000 meters.

Both areas lie in the Perdido fold belt, like Trion.

Reporting by Adriana Barrera, Additional reporting by Alexandra Editing by Dave Graham and and Peter Cooney