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Hydrocarbon Exploration Challenges and Perspectives in Mexico

Escalera-Alcocer, J. A.
[email protected]

In the late 80’s and 90’s, in a framework of large proven reserves and economic restrictions, petroleum exploration in Mexico had a very limited budget assignment (~500 million USD per year) and therefore booked reserves were low. During 2001-2006 exploration started a reactivation, budget increased to an annual average of 1.2 billion USD and booked 3P reserves raised to 4.6 billion barrels of oil equivalent (bboe). Based on the distribution of the 50 bboe of prospective resources in the Mexican petroleum provinces, a strategic plan was put in place in 2007 to improve exploration performance aiming at 100% 3P reserves restitution by 2012. Key elements of this strategy included focusing budget on the most prospective areas, ensuring a diversified portfolio, privileging oil-prone areas offshore and onshore southeastern Mexico, giving continuity to non-associated gas in Burgos and Veracruz, intensifying evaluation of the deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GoM), and, more recently, evaluating of shale oil and gas resources.

Additional initiatives considered selective application of technology, development of personnel skills and increasing execution capacity, particularly in seismic acquisition and processing and deepwater drilling. Challenges included improving subsurface imaging in geologically complex areas, petroleum system modeling to predict hydrocarbon type as well as reservoir distribution and quality in the deepwater GoM.

In 2007-2012, PEP gradually increased the budget for exploration to around 2.5 billion USD per year. This has allowed booking more than 9 bboe of 3P reserves, updating the prospective conventional resource estimation to 54.7 bboe, and having an initial estimation of shale oil and gas resources of 60 bboe. Discoveries include four giant fields in shallow waters offshore southeastern Mexico, significant discoveries onshore, a large gas province in the southern deepwater GoM and the first two light oil discoveries in the Perdido Fold Belt and Salina del Bravo provinces, close to the US border. Regarding shale oil and gas, the Cretaceous and Jurassic plays are giving encouraging results in northeastern Mexico.

Exploration activities carried out over the last years have confirmed a large conventional and unconventional potential in Mexico. Converting these resources into reserves requires technology application and continue the tendency in budget and execution capacity increase, including participation of third parties within Mexican regulation.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90166©2013 AAPG International Conference & Exhibition, Cartagena, Colombia, 8-11 September 2013