Mexico Welcomes the World to Its Shale Fields

When the World Shale Oil Summit met in Dallas last month, North America (the United States and to a lesser extent Canada) naturally took center stage. However, sponsor CWC promotes this annual gathering, now in its fifth year, as an international event so shale opportunities around the globe were also discussed. While an entire morning was devoted to Asia, Mexico tended to dominate many of the international discussions. Small wonder since the country is perennially ranked among the top 10 in terms of shale resources and is opening its doors to international E&P players for the first time in three quarters of a century. It is also is just across the Rio Grande from Texas and its vast network of pipelines and service contractors. Furthermore, geology doesn’t recognize international borders and one of the hottest plays in the US, the Eagle Ford, extends into Mexico.

In the 12 months since Mexico adopted the changes to its constitution necessary to allow international players in, the country has made remarkable progress implementing them. Following Round Zero, in which national oil company Pemex chose the acreage it will retain, Mexico’s Energy Secretariat (Sener) has moved quickly to outline the blocks to be offered in Round 1. This call for bids, which will kick off in January 2015, includes tracts in two unconventional plays: eight blocks with dry gas potential on the Burro-Picachos trend and 62 blocks with shale oil potential in the Tampico-Misantla Basin. The former, located just south of Del Rio, Texas, cover 900 sq km and hold prospective resources of about 142 million boe. Meanwhile the Tampico-Misantla Basin acreage comprises 7,401 sq km on the Gulf Coast near Tampico; shale oil potential is estimated at 8.9 billion boe in prospective resources.



Robert Clark, manager of unconventional oil and gas at Wood Mackenzie, told attendees at the shale summit his company believes the Jurassic play in the Tampico-Misantla Basin has the better potential. Known as the Pimienta tight oil play, it is believed to be an analog to the Barnett and has shown better productivity. Also this acreage is close to established operations and therefore should be cheaper to drill.

In Round Zero, Pemex had to relinquish most of its unconventional acreage, keeping only specific areas both on the Eagle Ford trend and in the Tampico-Misantla, where they drilled a well in 2012 that is to date Mexico’s oil shale oil producer. Located in the Tamaulipas province, Anhélido 1 had an initial production of 429 bo/d and 1.3 MMcfg/d from the Jurassic Pimienta Formation. Final recovery is expected to be in the range of 250,000 to 500,000 boe. As is the case with much of the acreage Pemex retained in Round Zero, there is a good chance the company will be looking for partners with technical expertise to further explore and develop its leasehold in this play.

Regarding opportunities in the Mexican extension of the Eagle Ford, Clark sees a number of problems facing operators who are thinking of crossing the Rio Grande. First of all, in Mexico the Eagle Ford is gas prone. It is also in a very isolated and waterless terrain. And, being close to the border, it is also in one of the most dangerous places on earth. Security will prove tough and very expensive. In other words, it is no country for old men.

“Don’t put your money in the Eagle Ford basket,” Clark advised. “The Pimienta trend isn’t in Cancun but it is far enough south to be safer.”

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