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Pemex Reports Gas Discovery in Deepwater GOM

Mexico's national oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) has reported that a recent natural gas discovery at its deepwater Lakach field in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) may hold 308 Bcf in gas reserves, with estimated total possible, probable and proven reserves of up to 1.3 Tcf.

The field, which is located in the Holok-Temoa area of Mexico's deepwater, could be the country's fourth-largest gas discovery, Pemex officials said. Production from Lakach is expected to ramp up around 2013. An initial well last year produced at a flow rate of 25-30 Mcf/d.

"Due to the size of the reserves discovered at Lakach, its development is an immediate option to contribute to increasing gas supplies," Pemex said on its website.

Mexico has prospective hydrocarbons resources estimated to be 53.8 billion boe, according to the Mexico energy ministry's 2007-2016 forecast. Of that total, 55%, or 29.5 billion boe, are located in the deepwater GOM.

Pemex in March began deepwater operations in the Holok-Temoa region. The Lakach-1 well, which was drilled in 3,241 feet of water, is the deepest to date for Pemex. The well showed 96% dry gas and 4% condensate.

"The first step that's being taken is to drill definition wells to provide certainty to the area," Pemex stated.

The company also said it would construct new infrastructure onshore to help extract the reserves. Development would include constructing a 28-mile pipe from a collection center on the ocean floor at a depth of 2,684 feet to the Lerdo de Tejada state in Veracruz, where the hydrocarbons would be processed.

Besides the Lakach-1 well, Pemex has recorded three other discoveries in waters deeper than 1,640 feet: Nab-1, a crude discovery in 2,231 feet of water; the Lalail-1 gas discovery in 2,641 feet of water; and Noxal-1, a gas discovery in 3,064 feet of water. Pemex has budgeted $300 million this year to drill two deepwater exploratory wells.

The Lakach discovery is in relatively shallow waters compared with other global deepwater discoveries, but the development would be a positive for Pemex, which has struggled to keep up not only with the country's energy demands but with financing its exploration and development. Under Mexico's Constitution, foreign investments in Pemex are not allowed -- and the company finances about 40% of the country's budget.

Attempts to revise Pemex's authority to allow outside investment are at the moment considered slim to none. This month some of the country's lawmakers barricaded the podium in the lower house of Congress to prevent debate after President Felipe Calderon submitted an energy bill that included legislation to encourage investment in Pemex. Few lawmakers think the bill will have a chance; the legislative session ends April 30.

Calderon's predecessor, Vicente Fox, obtained legislative approval for multiple service contracts (MSC), which allow private firms to subcontract to develop some natural gas projects (see NGI, Oct. 21, 2002). However, the legislature challenged the MSCs on several occasions, which in turn discouraged foreign companies from bidding on projects. Pemex suspended the program in 2005 and asked lawmakers to enact legislation to regulate MSCs (see NGI, Dec. 26, 2005).

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