Mexico will release Pemex seismic data for investors’ review

HOUSTON — Mexico will release years of oil exploration testing data as it opens its energy sector to international investment, a top Mexican regulator said in Houston Wednesday.

Juan Carlos Zepeda Molina, president of the National Hydrocarbons Commission, said that prospective investors can have a look at results of seismic testing — which uses sound waves to search for oil and gas reservoirs — by the state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.

“We will disclose all the seismic information that has been kept confidential for decades,” Zepeda said. “Isn’t that amazing?”

Zepeda and other leaders in Mexico’s oil industry spoke at a conference sponsored by the Greater Houston Partnership to discuss the historic overhaul of Mexico’s energy sector after decades of nationalization.

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The timing of the release of the seismic data is important, because it can take months to process and interpret the data, which is key in developing theories about geological formations. International companies considering investment in Mexico have said that access to the seismic data would be an important factor in their  investment decisions.

An executive of Norway’s Statoil made the point as recently as last week at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston.

“Mexico sits on what could be termed as a treasure trove of data — seismic and well data,” said Bill Maloney, Statoil’s executive vice president of development and production.

Maloney said that Statoil would not be able to move forward with any investment plans until it understood how the seismic data would be made available and when.

Zepeda assured the audience Wednesday that regulators plan to move swiftly to provide access to all available seismic data, so that companies will have time to evaluate it before June of 2015, when Mexico plans its first oil lease auction open to private investors.

Pemex will transfer the data, which it long has kept confidential, to the National Hydrocarbons Commission for public release sometime this spring, Zepeda said.

“We will open the information for public access so you can go in and review it. The sooner we open up this information, the better for the industry,” he said.

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Mexican regulators also plan to begin offering permits next month for new seismic testing, allowing seismic companies  to sell the information for a specified number of years to potential investors with the understanding that it eventually will be made public.

The proposed data release is one of the many steps the National Hydrocarbons Commission, Mexico’s oil and gas regulator, is taking to demonstrate that the country intends to behave and operate as an internationally competitive investment opportunity.

“You should not expect any creativity from us,” Zepeda said. “We are planning to be a boring regulator with international standards. We want to provide certainty, stability and predictability. I want you to feel in Mexico that we are an extension of the international oil industry.”