Archives for posts with tag: energy sector

To much fanfare and accompanied by voluminous industry coverage, Mexico recently concluded Round 1.4, the country’s first ever deepwater licensing round. However, Mexico’s shallow waters may yet have a future too: Bay of Campeche reserves remain considerable and indeed, the country’s third shallow water bid round is ongoing. It is therefore worth reviewing the current state of shallow water E&P in Mexico.

Veering Off Course

Mexican offshore oil is currently produced entirely from shallow water fields, as has always been the case. The key sources of Mexican offshore oil have been several large field complexes such as Cantarell and Ku-Maloob-Zaap. As these fields and others came online, the country’s offshore oil output grew with a robust CAGR of 6.6% from 1980 to 2004, reaching a peak of 2.83m bpd in 2004. As the graph implies, four complexes accounted for 93% of this production. Decline set in thereafter at ageing fields (production at Cantarell began at the Akal field in 1979). Pemex – the sole operator of Mexican offshore fields prior to 2014 – tried to halt production decline, but with little success, given budget and technical constraints. Thus by 2013, offshore oil production at the four key field complexes had fallen to 1.31m bpd, accounting for 69% of Mexico’s offshore oil production of 1.90m bpd.

Getting Back On Track

This situation prompted President Peña Nieto’s government to initiate energy sector reforms in 2013, opening up the country’s upstream sector to foreign companies for the first time since 1938. Pemex was granted 83% of Mexican 2P reserves in “Round Zero” in 2014. The first shallow water round, Round 1.1, followed in December 2014. Only two of 14 blocks were awarded though, reportedly due to unfavourable fiscal terms inhibiting bidding by oil companies. The authorities then improved terms before launching Round 1.2 (shallow water), Round 1.3 (onshore) and Round 1.4 in 2015. Round 1.2 was better received than 1.1: as per the inset, 60% of blocks were awarded (75% of the km2 area on offer). One of the round’s victors, Eni, has already been granted permission to drill four appraisal wells on Block 1.

Turning Things Around?

In light of these positives, there are high hopes for Round 2.1, a shallow water round launched in July 2016. Indeed, 10 out of the 15 Round 2.1 blocks are in the prolific Sureste Basin, home to the Cantarell complex. Eight of these ten areas are unexplored, so there is sizeable upside potential, and have been mapped with 3D seismic, so operators could begin drilling promptly. Moreover, the surface area of the blocks in Round 2.1 are twice that of Round 1.1. It should also be noted that according to a 2016 IEA study, Mexico’s shallow waters still account for 29% of the country’s remaining technically recoverable oil resources. Finally, with rates for a high spec jack-up in the GoM assessed at about $85-90,000/day in January 2017, down 45% on three years ago, some oil companies might be tempted to make a move on a round that could offer a relatively low cost means to grow oil reserves and production.

So arguably, Mexican shallow water E&P is on the road again. There are potential hazards of course, such as oil price volatility or Mexico’s relationship with the US. But it is not implausible to think that Mexican shallow water oil production might speed up again in the coming years.


Plagued by constant blackouts and power shortages, Egypt appears to be facing its worst energy crisis in decades. However, following the historic discovery of the giant gas field Zohr offshore Egypt in August this year and revived interest from IOCs, it seems that the tables are set to turn. Indeed, after a period of gas production decline, Egypt’s energy outlook is getting increasingly bright.

Slide Down The Gas Pyramid

Until recently, Egypt’s gas production story had been one of growth: production climbed from 1.68 to 5.76 bn cfd between 2000-2009 and in 2003, it was sufficient to kick-start LNG exports. However, a combination of political unrest (notably the Arab Spring of 2011) and rising population has resulted in natural gas supply shortages over the last 5 years. Domestic gas demand has on average grown by 8% y-o-y, eventually outstripping supply. As a result, Egypt has been forced to re-route LNG destined for exports to domestic consumption. Indeed, at the start of 2014, BG announced it was breaking its contracts because it was unable to export enough gas. This year, Egypt resorted to importing LNG from Qatar – a bitter moment for the previous exporter.

Enter Zohr

They say that when you hit bottom, the only way is up and for Egypt, this seems to be the case. Earlier this year, ENI made what is believed to be the largest ever gas discovery in the Mediterranean, named Zohr. The field is part of the Levantine Basin, home to other prolific gas finds such as the Israeli Leviathan field. ENI puts the find down to different use of sequencing models, concentrating on carbonate rather than classical sand reservoirs. The gas giant (estimated to hold 30 tcf of lean gas) is located in water depths of 1,450m, providing an exciting departure from typical shallow exploration of mature basins in the region. Additionally, BP announced a $12 billion investment in Egypt’s West Nile Delta project: another deepwater discovery with 5 tcf of gas resources. A move to deeper waters creates opportunity for subsea development, the current production solution of choice in all of the country’s active deepwater fields. Out of the 68 active subsea units in Egypt, 40 are operated by ENI and 8 by BP. It is likely that these operators will continue to implement subsea development in their future projects.

Clash Of The Giants

Elsewhere, the discovery of Zohr was not such welcome news. There were plans to import gas via a pipeline from the Tamar field and (once in production) the competing gas giant, Leviathan, in Israel. Plans for the Leviathan field will now have to be redrawn and potentially accelerated if Israel wants a claim of the region’s LNG exports. However, following extensive regulatory and anti-trust objections, its start-up date remains uncertain.

Nevertheless, it is clear that Egypt’s fortunes are turning. The Zohr discovery, alongside other scheduled start-ups, will strengthen Egypt’s energy balance in the long-term. And the story does not end here: it has been reported that there are 7 other deepwater blocks with similar lithology to ENI’s. There is evidently a revived interest in the Levantine basin, as IOCs begin to wonder where the next giant could be hiding.


While the expanding role of Asia (especially China, see SIW 1132) in seaborne trade has grabbed headlines in recent years, developments in the US, still the world’s largest economy, have also had a significant impact. In a short space of time, changes in the US energy sector have dramatically altered global trading patterns in a number of commodities, significantly impacting the pattern of volume growth.

Putting On A Spurt Of Energy

For much of the last three decades, US oil production has been in decline, falling on average by 1% a year since 1980 to a low of 6.8m bpd in 2008. Yet technological advances have since led to huge gains in exploitation of ‘unconventional’ oil and gas shale reserves. In the space of just six years, the US managed to raise oil output alone by an astonishing 60% to almost 11m bpd, a new record.

Making An Oil Change

This has led to huge changes in US energy usage and import requirements. Crude oil imports have almost halved since 2005, and since 2010 have fallen on average by 11% p.a. to 260mt last year. Exports of crude oil from West Africa in particular have had to find a home elsewhere (unsurprisingly, many shipments now go East). Since US crude exports are still banned, US refiners have taken advantage of greater domestic crude supply to produce high volumes of oil products, especially for shipment to Latin America and Europe. Lower US oil demand since the economic downturn has also contributed, and seaborne product exports reached 120mt in 2013, up from 70mt in 2009. Alongside global shifts in the location of refinery capacity and oil demand growth, these trends have transformed seaborne oil trade patterns.

The impact could be similarly profound in the gas sector. As US imports of gas, mostly LNG, have dropped (on average by 34% per year since 2010), plans to add up to nearly 100mtpa of liquefaction capacity by 2020 could mean the US eventually emerges as a major LNG exporter, potentially accounting for 15% of global capacity (from 0.5% currently). Meanwhile, LPG shipments are continuing to accelerate strongly, rising by more than 60% y-o-y so far in 2014 to 6mt.

Miners Under Pressure

There has also been an impact in the dry bulk sector. Lower domestic gas prices have pushed the share of coal in US energy use to below 20%, leaving miners with excess coal supplies. US steam coal exports jumped to 48mt in 2012 from 11mt in 2009, contributing to lower global coal prices (cutting mining margins) and higher Asian import demand.

So What Next?

So the effects of the changing balance in the US energy sector have been far-reaching, and there remains scope for more shifts to occur as trade patterns continue to adjust to changes in commodity supply and prices. While the firm pace of expansion in US oil and gas output may start to slow, any change to existing export policies could have further impact. What is clear already, in terms of seaborne trade growth, is that the focus has shifted away from US imports, for decades a key driver of the expansion of global volumes, towards the country’s developing role as an energy exporter.