Pemex reserve replacement fell dramatically in 2013, filing shows

HOUSTON – Mexico’s state-run oil company replaced only about two-thirds of the oil it produced last year with new reserves, a dramatic fall from the year before as it dismantled field laboratories at its biggest onshore project, regulatory filings showed this week.

Petróleos Mexicanos’  reserve-replacement ratio, a key metric used to determine an oil company’s stability and its ability to replace the oil and gas it extracts, fell to 67.8 percent in 2013, down from 104.3 percent the year before.

The company’s reserves fell as Pemex curbed its drilling activity northeast of Mexico City at the massive Chicontepec Basin, where it entered development contracts with three international oil companies and throttled down its own development last July, according to documents filed Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Pemex also pointed to lower exploration activity in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, “where the lack of infrastructure precluded Pemex from booking proved reserves,” the company said. But the company said it is working to correct the problem by boosting its development in other areas of the Chicontepec Basin and one of its biggest offshore fields in the Gulf of Mexico, the Ku-Maloob-Zaap field.

In its filing, Pemex also said it may not have the resources to develop deep-water Gulf of Mexico fields and shale basins that the Mexican government assigns to it in Round Zero — in which Pemex has first right to request oil land in an initial phase of historic reforms in the nation’s oil sector.  Round Zero sets the stage  for subsequent rounds including an international bidding process expected to begin next year, as Pemex competes internationally for the first time after decades as a monopoly.

The Gulf and shale basins “will demand significant capital investments and will pose significant operational challenges,” Pemex said in the filing. “In addition, increased competition in the oil and gas sector in Mexico may increase the costs of obtaining additional acreage in bidding rounds for the rights to new reserves.”

Pemex added that its ability to spend investment capital is hampered by its large tax obligations to the Mexican government.