A well drilled in Mexico's deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Catemaco Fold Belt appears to confirm five natural gas deposits that together total proven, possible and probable reserves of 1.5-2 Tcf, according to state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex). The discovery would be the most productive in the deepwater for Pemex to date, officials said.

The Kunah-1 well, located about 77 miles northeast of the country's port city of Veracruz, was drilled to a depth of 2,157 meters, or 7,070 feet. The well tested at 34 MMcf/d of gas and 100 b/d of liquids.

The five deposits discovered in the belt were drilled at depths of 9,327-13,450 feet, according to Pemex. Exploratory work at Kunah-1, as well wells at Lakach-1 and Piklis-1, began in 2006, resulting "in an increase in the number of productive accumulations in the northern part of the belt," Pemex said.

Expanding production in the Catemaco Fold Belt is a priority for the producer monopoly, which is considered a primary breadwinner for the country. To date Pemex has drilled 20 wells at depths of more than 500 meters, with seven that were dry and seven finding natural gas. So far it has found no oil. Pemex previously had concentrated its offshore exploration efforts in shallow water.

Exploratory work in the deepwater is part of Pemex's long-term plan to boost oil and natural output in the offshore and onshore, which has fallen about 25% since peaking at 3.4 million boe/d in 2004. According to the Pemex website, the company produced an average 2.538 million boe/d in June.

Pemex, the No. 7 oil producer in the world, estimates that there are up to 29 billion boe in its portion of the GOM, which is more than half of Mexico's potential resources. President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had made opening up Pemex to more private investment to boost production one of his campaign themes, but as has happened in the past, the incoming president's party appears to have won fewer seats in Congress than pre-election polls had predicted.

The PRI now is estimated to have captured about 241 seats in the 500-member lower house, which would require the new president to depend on the opposition party's support to enable a two-thirds majority vote for constitutional changes, such as allowing private investments in Pemex.

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