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Mexico's First Deepwater Discovery in Perdido

Mexico's Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) has struck oil in its first deepwater discovery in the Gulf of Mexico's Perdido Fold Belt near the Mexico-U.S. maritime boundary, President Felipe Calderon said last week.

The Trion I discovery well, drilled in 8,250 feet of water about 24 miles south of the maritime boundary, contains an estimated 250-400 million bbl of proven, probable and possible (3P) reserves. The strike followed 22 attempts by Pemex in the deepwater that found no oil or gas.

"We estimate that this deposit could belong to one of the most important regions in the deepwater Gulf," said Calderon. "This is a great discovery...It further strengthens our hydrocarbon reserves and allows Mexico to maintain and increase oil production in the medium and long-term." The extended "petroleum system" of additional fields in region "could have from 4 billion to 10 billion bbl of crude."

On the U.S. side of the boundary, Royal Dutch Shell plc operates the Perdido Development, a floating production facility with a host spar in Alaminos Canyon Block 857 that began operating in 2010 (see NGI, April 5, 2010). Perdido was the first producing platform in the emerging Lower Tertiary Trend -- and the furthest from shore -- and is able to produce annual peak production of more than 200 MMcf/d of natural gas and 100,000 b/d of oil (see NGI, Oct. 30, 2006).

The Perdido facility, jointly owned by Chevron Corp. (37.5%) and BP plc (27.5%), was built in about 8,000 feet of water and is able to gather, process and export production within a 30-mile radius.

Pemex has invested about $120 million to date in the Trion well, said exploration chief Carlos Morales. Trion's output eventually could ship through Shell's Perdido facilities to U.S. refineries and gas processing plants, he said.

"One of the options to be analyzed is to connect our project to the existing pipelines in the U.S. with a commercial agreement," said Morales. "The other option is to install a floating production system on our side and ship the crude to Mexican refineries or to U.S. terminals." Pemex expects to start adding "some proven reserves from deep waters this year."

Morales called Trion one of the top 10 discoveries in the entire GOM. While most deepwater formations take up to seven years to reach production, Pemex will attempt to ramp up in five years, he said.

According to Calderon, half of Pemex's future oil and gas reserves may be in the GOM deepwater. As of Jan. 1 Pemex, which is Mexico's state-owned oil company, reported that the country's proven reserves totaled 13.8 billion boe; 3P reserves were estimated at 43.8 billion boe.

Under an agreement between Pemex and U.S. officials that was reached in February, U.S. producers were given incentives to develop oil and gas resources jointly with Pemex. The agreement allows Pemex to classify oil and gas reserves extracted on the Mexican side of the maritime boundary and send them to U.S. facilities as domestic production and exports. Pemex also may charge royalties on the output.

Pemex plans to develop the Trion project but it could offer other fields in the development to private operators, said Morales. Results are expected in the next few weeks on another deepwater exploratory well called Supremus 1, which is in 9,514 feet of water, he said. Supremus also is being drilled in the Perdido Fold Belt.

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