Mexico’s deep water

July 30, 2013

Pemex Exploration and Production has recently drilled three successful wells testing the deepwater Perdido Fold Belt, but questions remain about the NOC’s timing to develop the offshore discoveries.

Mexico’s earliest deepwater exploration was in 2003, when the Chuktah-201 well was completed in water 513m deep, followed by the Nab-1 well in 2004 at a water depth of 681m. Chuktah-201 was a dry hole, and Nab-1 had non-commercial quantities of oil, but finding oil in deep water has become a priority for Pemex.

The company has acquired 90,000sq km of offshore 3D seismic data from 2002-2011. There are currently five semisubmersibles at work in deep water off Mexico, among the 80 offshore drilling rigs.

Reserves, budget

In 2006, Pemex drilled the Lakach-1 well, a large natural gas discovery with 2P reserves of 0.9 Tcf. Pemex says reserves could be as large as 1.4 Tcf, including satellite fields: Ahawbil, Labay, Piklis, and Kuyah. Pemex estimates 3P reserves at Piklis field, discovered in May 2011, at 0.8 Bcf.

Between 2007 and 2010, Pemex spent about US$1.8 billion on deepwater exploration, representing about 24% of the overall exploration budget. The deepwater exploration budget in 2011 was $1.14 billion, dropping to $1.07 billion in 2012.

The 2012-2013 work includes three deepwater wells in the Perdido basin. This area is about 200 miles (320 km) off the Texas coast and stretches across the US-Mexican maritime border.

Deepwater rigs

Mexico City-based Industrial Perforadora de Campeche SA (IPC) has been working in Mexico’s oil industry since 1985 and runs its maritime operations from two shore bases: one in Veracruz and the other in the port of Laguna Azul, Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche.

In June 2007, IPC signed a 5-year contract with Pemex E&P for a semisubmersible drilling unit, which began running in late 2010. In July 2007, IPC commissioned Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Co. (DSME) to build a Gotaverken GVA 7500-design semisub capable of drilling in water to 10,000 ft (3,048 m) and 40,000ft TD. This sixth generation MODU, Bicentenario, was delivered in February 2010 and arrived in Mexico in May 2011.

In August 2008, IPC contracted with DSME to build a sister ship, La Muralla IV, delivered in October 2012. Grupo R Perforación Marina operates La Muralla IV and began drilling the Piklis-1DL well in water 6053ft (1783m) deep, on 9 April 2013.

Concurrently, Grupo R launched Nautilus IV, the first phase of its new ROV initiative, on the La Muralla IV.

A sister company of IPC, Grupo R Exploración Marina, S.A. (GREMSA), operates a third semisub, Centenario GR. This MODU is Friede & Goldman ExD Millennium design, capable of reaching a total depth of 40,000 ft. It was delivered from the Jurong shipyard in Singapore in 2010 and is working under a 5-year drilling services contract for Pemex E&P that started in September 2010. GREMSA is the first wholly-Mexican company to provide deepwater drilling services in Mexico.

Two other semisubs currently working off Mexico are Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc.’s Ocean Yorktown, thirdgeneration MODU capable of drilling in 2850-ft water depth; and Seadrill Ltd.’s West Pegasus, a sixth-generation MODU capable of drilling in 10,000-ft water.


Pemex drilled the Trión-1 well, 180km off the coast of Tamaulipas, the first of three wells in Mexico’s Perdido Fold Belt. The well made a commercial discovery of light crude, announced in August 2012. Mexican President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa said it could produce “4 to 10 billion bbl of oil” and allow Mexico to “increase oil production in the medium and long term.”

In October 2012, Pemex reported discovering light oil in the Supremus-1 well, the second Perdido well, in 9515ft (2890m) water depth. Calderon announced that the field probably holds between 75 and 125 million bbl of oil.

After drilling the Trion-1 and Supremus-1 discoveries, Pemex estimated 10 billion bbl of untapped crude oil in the Mexican sector of Perdido.

The third Perdido well was the Maximino-1 wildcat, in the deepest water yet, 9570ft (2933m). It was described in 2011 as “the jewel in the crown of our deepwater projects” by Jose Antonio Escalera, deputy director for technical exploration at Pemex. On 16 May 2013, Pemex announced that they were testing light crude in the Maximino well.

Pemex E&P director Carlos Morales Gil said the company is considering a standalone spar or FPSO to develop Trión and other discoveries in deep water. In June 2013, Pemex awarded an $84 million contract to GE for subsea wellheads. OE

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