Mexico’s highly touted Ixachi and Quesqui natural gas fields are producing below their stated targets amid historically high natural gas prices, according to the latest data from upstream regulator Comisión Nacional de Hidrocarburos (CNH).

Discovered in 2017 by state oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Ixachi had been forecasted to reach peak production of 638.5 MMcf/d by 2022.

As of July, the field was producing 200 MMcf/d, CNH data show.

The Quesqui field, meanwhile, was supposed to hit 410 MMcf/d by 2021, according to Pemex CEO Octavio Romero Oropeza. As of July, it was producing 254 MMcf/d.

The latest figures come at a time of considerably higher gas prices than in 2019, when CNH approved Pemex’s development plan for Ixachi.

In June 2019 when the plan was approved, Mexico natural gas prices averaged $2.78/MMBtu, versus the July 2021 average price of $3.98, according to the IPGN monthly price index compiled by the Comisión Reguladora de Energía, aka CRE.

Even under the most conservative production scenarios outlined by Pemex in the development plan, Ixachi was expected to reach production of nearly 500 MMcf/d by 2022.

Energy experts have cited the technical complexity of Ixachi as a headwind to its development, largely because of the high temperature, high pressure and extreme depth of the targeted reservoir.

Mexico gas production on the whole averaged 3.86 Bcf/d in July, up slightly from output of 3.85 Bcf/d recorded in July 2020, according to CNH.

Pemex accounted for 3.67 Bcf/d of the total, up from 3.63 Bcf/d in the year-ago month.

Private sector firms produced 192 MMcf/d, down from 227.2 MMcf/d in July 2020.

Gas output tied to oil production, aka associated gas, accounted for 66% or about two-thirds of Mexico’s total gas production in July. Non-associated gas supplied the remainder.

Despite missing their production targets, Ixachi and Quesqui both ranked among the top five gas producing assets in the country.

The leading fields, all operated by Pemex, comprised Maloob (298 MMcf/d), Akal (269 MMcf), Quesqui (254 MMcf), Onel (201 MMcf) and Ixachi (200 MMcf).

Maloob is part of the Ku-Maloob-Zaap shallow water cluster that made global headlines last week when a fatal fire on a platform in the Ku field shut in 421,000 b/d of oil output.

Pemex said Monday (Aug. 30) that all production had been restored.

Ku was Mexico’s No. 8 natural gas producing field in July at 178 MMcf/d.

The Ixachi onshore gas and condensate field, meanwhile, is among the “priority” fields touted by officials as part of the government’s mandate to “rescue” Pemex after years of declining production.

July oil production, meanwhile, totaled 1.67 million b/d, up from 1.6 million b/d a year ago.

Pemex supplied 1.61 million b/d of the total, up from 1.55 million b/d. Private sector firms produced 63,529 b/d, up from 56,744 b/d a year earlier.

Output was led by the Maloob field at 306,000 b/d, followed by Zaap (256,000 b/d), Ayatsil (100,000 b/d), Xanab (91,000 b/d) and Ku (54,000 b/d). 

Private sector natural gas production was led by Servicios Múltiples de Burgos SA de CV, operator of the onshore Misión area located in the Burgos Basin.

Leading private oil producers include Petrofac Ltd. (18,984 b/d), Eni SpA (15,709 b/d) and Hokchi Energy SA de CV (8,981 b/d).

These firms could soon have company, though.

Fieldwood Energy LLC CEO Andrés Brugmann told NGI’s Mexico GPI last month that the firm expects to be producing 30,000 b/d of light oil at the offshore Pokoch and Ichalkil fields by next month, and that, “in the future we expect the project to reach 100,000 b/d and be one of the top producing assets in Mexico.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s BHP recently sanctioned spending of $258 million to advance front-end engineering and design for the deepwater Trion project offshore Mexico.

Eni also announced a deepwater oil discovery in the Sureste Basin in early August estimated to contain 150-200 million boe in place.