The Mexico energy market has been a hot topic ever since late 2013 when the government decided to liberalize the energy sector, opening it up to foreign investment.
The reform provides an unprecedented opportunity for international companies to participate in development of the nation’s vast oil resources as PEMEX unwinds its current monopoly. Multiple other opportunities exist in the power sector, in renewables development and in the natural gas pipeline sector.
The energy reforms were largely a result of the steep decline of the country’s oil production, inadequate financial resources to turn production around and an inability of PEMEX to keep pace with the technological change taking place in the industry.
Mexico ranks sixth in the world for non-conventional oil and gas resources, right behind Canada and Algeria, but lacks the financial resources to develop its reserves. It would take US$20 billion to extract the country’s reserves over a 210-year period and $87 billion to do it in 50 years. It also would not be possible to do this with one state-owned exploration and production monopoly — this is why the reforms were necessary.
However, private investment cannot come quickly enough. Active drilling rigs in Mexico fell to 43 in February, down 43% from a year prior. Developmental rigs fell to 35 in February, down 44% from February 2015. The biggest year-on-year declines came from the Southern Region (down 15.7 rigs; 52%) and the Southwestern Marine Region (down 12.4 rigs; 56%).
In March, Pemex’s announced a $5.5 billion budget cut, and active rigs plummeted another 43%, while developmental rigs dropped to only 21. The Southern region again was hit hardest, with developmental rigs falling to seven during the month, down 55% from January.
Petroleum production is a major concern for the country, but renewables also are an important focus of the reforms. On top of having significantly large oil and gas resources, Mexico also has significant resources for renewable energy such as geothermal, wind and solar. It is estimated that current renewables generation, plus proven additional renewable resources in the country, could boost generation from renewables from 3.9% of the country’s total power generation to 9.89%.
Adding possible renewable resources to the mix could satisfy the country’s total generation needs, according to Mario Gabriel Budebo, director general of the EXI Fund: Energy and Infrastructure and former independent director of gas and basic petrochemicals at PEMEX. Budebo, who was the keynote speaker at the Platts Global Power Conference in Las Vegas in early April, also noted that significant infrastructure would need to be built to support such a major turn to renewables, highlighting the significant need for private investment to support the renewables efforts. He also gave a firsthand account of the Mexican energy landscape and the other investment opportunities the reform provides for international companies.
Investment in pipeline infrastructure also is a major need throughout the country. Just a few years ago, only 10 states had natural gas pipelines, but today 22 states have them. The Ministry of Energy estimates US$10.1 billion needs to be invested in pipeline infrastructure between 2015 and 2019 to build 3,205 miles of new pipeline, which would increase the total pipeline network to 11,081 miles.
While the country waits for the benefits of private investment in exploration and production, most of its natural gas supply to feed all the new gas pipeline and power generation infrastructure will originate in the United States. In its new Mexico Energy Monthly report, Platts Analytics said US natural gas exports to Mexico rose to more than 3.5 Bcf/d in April, prompted by a near 0.7 Bcf/d year-on-year increase in gas demand from the Mexican power sector. Greater reliance on US gas supply has reduced the need for more expensive imported liquefied natural gas. LNG imports by Mexico, despite rising to about 0.6 Bcf/d in April, were down 0.2 Bcf/d from April 2015 levels. Total non-US gas supply in Mexico was down 0.3 Bcf/d in April compared to April 2015.
Platts Analytics expects that US natural gas exports to Mexico could break above 4 Bcf/d by early summer as demand picks up and domestic supply continues to decline due to a lack of drilling activity.
Power demand is expected to increase as the country transitions to greater reliance on gas-fired generation and retires as much as 2.1 GW of fuel oil-generation plants over the next year.
However, lingering gas pipeline transportation constraints on both the north-to-south corridors (Los Ramones Phase II South) and the east-to-west corridors (El Enino – Topolobampo), may hinder exports this summer if planned pipeline expansions miss their expected in-service dates, in which case Mexico would likely increase reliance on LNG imports.
Mexico’s energy infrastructure development is behind other emerging economies, creating significant investment opportunities for both domestic and foreign companies.
By Anne Swedberg, Manager, Gas and Power Analytics
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Recent headlines on the oil industry have focused squarely on the upstream side: the amount of crude oil that is being produced and the resulting effect on oil prices, against a backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. But that is just one part of the supply chain. To be sold as final products, crude oil needs to be refined into its constituent fuels, each of which is facing its own crisis because of the overall demand destruction caused by the virus. And once the dust settles, the global refining industry will look very different.
Because even before the pandemic broke out, there was a surplus of refining capacity worldwide. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019, global oil demand was some 99.85 mmb/d. However, this consumption figure includes substitute fuels – ethanol blended into US gasoline and biodiesel in Europe and parts of Asia – as well as chemical additives added on to fuels. While by no means an exact science, extrapolating oil demand to exclude this results in a global oil demand figure of some 95.44 mmb/d. In comparison, global refining capacity was just over 100 mmb/d. This overcapacity is intentional; since most refineries do not run at 100% utilisation all the time and many will shut down for scheduled maintenance periodically, global refining utilisation rates stand at about 85%.
Based on this, even accounting for differences in definitions and calculations, global oil demand and global oil refining supply is relatively evenly matched. However, demand is a fluid beast, while refineries are static. With the Covid-19 pandemic entering into its sixth month, the impact on fuels demand has been dramatic. Estimates suggest that global oil demand fell by as much as 20 mmb/d at its peak. In the early days of the crisis, refiners responded by slashing the production of jet fuel towards gasoline and diesel, as international air travel was one of the first victims of the virus. As national and sub-national lockdowns were introduced, demand destruction extended to transport fuels (gasoline, diesel, fuel oil), petrochemicals (naphtha, LPG) and power generation (gasoil, fuel oil). Just as shutting down an oil rig can take weeks to complete, shutting down an entire oil refinery can take a similar timeframe – while still producing fuels that there is no demand for.
Refineries responded by slashing utilisation rates, and prioritising certain fuel types. In China, state oil refiners moved from running their sites at 90% to 40-50% at the peak of the Chinese outbreak; similar moves were made by key refiners in South Korea and Japan. With the lockdowns easing across most of Asia, refining runs have now increased, stimulating demand for crude oil. In Europe, where the virus hit hard and fast, refinery utilisation rates dropped as low as 10% in some cases, with some countries (Portugal, Italy) halting refining activities altogether. In the USA, now the hardest-hit country in the world, several refineries have been shuttered, with no timeline on if and when production will resume. But with lockdowns easing, and the summer driving season up ahead, refinery production is gradually increasing.
But even if the end of the Covid-19 crisis is near, it still doesn’t change the fundamental issue facing the refining industry – there is still too much capacity. The supply/demand balance shows that most regions are quite even in terms of consumption and refining capacity, with the exception of overcapacity in Europe and the former Soviet Union bloc. The regional balances do hide some interesting stories; Chinese refining capacity exceeds its consumption by over 2 mmb/d, and with the addition of 3 new mega-refineries in 2019, that gap increases even further. The only reason why the balance in Asia looks relatively even is because of oil demand ‘sinks’ such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Pakistan. Even in the US, the wealth of refining capacity on the Gulf Coast makes smaller refineries on the East and West coasts increasingly redundant.
Given this, the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis will be the inevitable hastening of the current trend in the refining industry, the closure of small, simpler refineries in favour of large, complex and more modern refineries. On the chopping block will be many of the sub-50 kb/d refineries in Europe; because why run a loss-making refinery when the product can be imported for cheaper, even accounting for shipping costs from the Middle East or Asia? Smaller US refineries are at risk as well, along with legacy sites in the Middle East and Russia. Based on current trends, Europe alone could lose some 2 mmb/d of refining capacity by 2025. Rising oil prices and improvements in refining margins could ensure the continued survival of some vulnerable refineries, but that will only be a temporary measure. The trend is clear; out with the small, in with the big. Covid-19 will only amplify that. It may be a painful process, but in the grand scheme of things, it is also a necessary one.
Infographic: Global oil consumption and refining capacity (BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019)
|Region||Consumption (mmb/d)*||Refining Capacity (mmb/d)|
*Extrapolated to exclude additives and substitute fuels (ethanol, biodiesel)
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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Bloomberg L.P. data
Note: All prices except West Texas Intermediate (Cushing) are spot prices.
The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) front-month futures contract for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the most heavily used crude oil price benchmark in North America, saw its largest and swiftest decline ever on April 20, 2020, dropping as low as -$40.32 per barrel (b) during intraday trading before closing at -$37.63/b. Prices have since recovered, and even though the market event proved short-lived, the incident is useful for highlighting the interconnectedness of the wider North American crude oil market.
Changes in the NYMEX WTI price can affect other price markers across North America because of physical market linkages such as pipelines—as with the WTI Midland price—or because a specific price is based on a formula—as with the Maya crude oil price. This interconnectedness led other North American crude oil spot price markers to also fall below zero on April 20, including WTI Midland, Mars, West Texas Sour (WTS), and Bakken Clearbrook. However, the usefulness of the NYMEX WTI to crude oil market participants as a reference price is limited by several factors.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
First, NYMEX WTI is geographically specific because it is physically redeemed (or settled) at storage facilities located in Cushing, Oklahoma, and so it is influenced by events that may not reflect the wider market. The April 20 WTI price decline was driven in part by a local deficit of uncommitted crude oil storage capacity in Cushing. Similarly, while the price of the Bakken Guernsey marker declined to -$38.63/b, the price of Louisiana Light Sweet—a chemically comparable crude oil—decreased to $13.37/b.
Second, NYMEX WTI is chemically specific, meaning to be graded as WTI by NYMEX, a crude oil must fall within the acceptable ranges of 12 different physical characteristics such as density, sulfur content, acidity, and purity. NYMEX WTI can therefore be unsuitable as a price for crude oils with characteristics outside these specific ranges.
Finally, NYMEX WTI is time specific. As a futures contract, the price of a NYMEX WTI contract is the price to deliver 1,000 barrels of crude oil within a specific month in the future (typically at least 10 days). The last day of trading for the May 2020 contract, for instance, was April 21, with physical delivery occurring between May 1 and May 31. Some market participants, however, may prefer more immediate delivery than a NYMEX WTI futures contract provides. Consequently, these market participants will instead turn to shorter-term spot price alternatives.
Taken together, these attributes help to explain the variety of prices used in the North American crude oil market. These markers price most of the crude oils commonly used by U.S. buyers and cover a wide geographic area.
Principal contributor: Jesse Barnett