Cenagas’ first transportation capacity open season for Mexico’s National Integrated Pipeline System (Sistrangas) reached another milestone Friday when the request submission period ended.

Twenty-four companies submitted 759 requests that amount to 3.5 million gigajoules (GJ)/d, the Centro Nacional de Control del Gas Natural (Cenagas) said. That represents an excess demand of almost 30% over the 2.7 million GJ/d made available last October.

While that may be interpreted as a positive development, illustrating how much interest there is in the open season, it also offers a measure of the size of the Mexican infrastructure’s shortfall.

While Cenagas did not make the lists of companies or individual requests publicly available, it did reveal the identities of some bidders, including both customers — such as Shell Trading Mexico, Ecogas Mexico and Compañía Mexicana de Gas — and marketers — such as Pemex Transformación Industrial, Macquarie Energy Mexico and White Eagle Mexico — among others.

The next milestone is set for March 21 when Cenagas will publish its “b coefficients,” which represent the average of the premiums offered in each preferred first route, and the saturation level for each of these routes. Participants in the open season will then be able to reassess their requests to ensure capacity and resubmit them from March 27 to April 7. Winners will be announced on May 8.

The open season is the first exercise for private parties, both customers and marketers, and subsidiaries of the state energy companies to reserve capacity in Sistrangas. The system, operated independently by Cenagas, used to be owned by state oil company Pemex, which was forced to divest from it under energy reform passed in December 2013.

Last July, Pemex, public power utility CFE and independent power producers were assigned slightly over half of Sistrangas’ capacity to meet their internal demand and their legacy contracts, respectively.

Together with the open season, Mexican energy regulatory authorities are moving forward with an open season on importation pipelines and a program to release 70% of Pemex’s natural gas supply contracts by volume in the next three years. These measures are intended to create a competitive market. Natural gas first-hand sale prices are currently set by the Energy Regulatory Commission, but these will be released gradually across the country as alternative supply sources become established.