Pemex and The forgotten territories

The situation that Pemex is going through in the area of production, and that is now over 15 years old, reminds us of past experiences when we took our first steps in the production operations of mature fields, characterized by the continuous decline or fall in production. In the afternoons, when the day’s tasks were completed and the actions and results were evaluated, the voice of an experienced worker shared a wise phrase: “we have not yet reached forgotten territories and, until we do, we will not change trends”.

The issue of  “forgotten territories” was grasped in the work team as we grew professionally and got to know the production operations. It has to do with doing different things, venturing to look for new options to change patterns, experimenting in existing areas not necessarily considered in daily priorities, instead of maintaining the effort to do more of the same in known fields or areas.

There is an example of a “forgotten territory”: the Permian area in Texas and New Mexico. The Permian Sedimentary Basin is a large territory located in the southwestern United States, it extends from southern Lubbock County through Midland and Odessa to southwestern New Mexico, and covers an area of more than 220,000 km2, 400 km wide and 500 km long.

A basin practically abandoned for more than 50 years, which has now recovered and become the future hydrocarbon producer of the United States, giving more than four million barrels per day of oil and more than 14 billion cubic feet of gas per day; with an extraordinary activity, which seeks to expand surface facilities and infrastructure —turned into bottlenecks— in order to continue increasing its production horizons, which aim to double in the next three years.

The reason for the recovery of this “forgotten territory” has been the need to produce more hydrocarbons to supply the internal market of the United States, together with the advance in two key technologies for this resurrection: horizontal wells and hydraulic stimulation for the efficient exploitation of deposits known as tight, and shale formations. Today, companies such as Chevron Corporation, Occidental Petroleum, Anadarko Petroleum Co, Pioneer Natural Resources, Concho Resources, and EOG Resources are operating in this recovered territory; all of them considered leaders in Permian production.

This experience recorded in the Permian territory of Texas and New Mexico can be tested in Mexico. There is a “forgotten territory” that could have similar relevance to the Permian, for Pemex and the country. This is the area of Tampico—Misantla, more specifically, Active Tertiary Gulf (ATG), better known as the “Paleocanal of Chicontepec”. A territory that was forgotten after the results obtained a few years ago, and its condemnation by the CNH and SENER.

There are geological and stratigraphic similarities between these tight Permian and tertiary ATG deposits, and also in existing shale formations. The technologies are being used in the United States, Argentina, Canada and other parts of the world. These technologies are within the reach of Pemex and the national company has experience in the area as well. The myths created around the exploitation of this type of deposits and shale formations have been overcome. Pemex must receive the necessary resources, authorization and empowerment to return to that, and other, “forgotten territories”. Recovering them will revitalize areas that require investment to detonate local economies and the country’s GDP. Learning from other people’s experiences is wise, ignoring them is arrogance.

Luis Vielma, is CBM Ingeniería Exploración y Producción President and CEO, a well-known Mexican engineering services company. Member of the International Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) and México Petroleum Engineering Society. Mexican Association of Service Companies (AMESPAC) International Relations VP. Frequent collaborator in three prestigious Mexican energy news publications, as specialized writer for the hydrocarbons sector. Speaker in national and international events of the energy sector. Author of three books, the last one “Chapopote”, a historical fiction of Mexican oil, which is considered the most original documented story of the origins of the oil industry in Mexico.