Mexico’s energy security and sovereigntyJanuary 19, 2022
Marco Antonio Osorio Bonilla, general director of the Mexican Petroleum Institute (IMP), talks to The Energy Year about the institute’s contributions to Mexico’s energy security and sovereignty and how it helps Pemex boost exploration and production results. The IMP is a public research centre dedicated to Mexico’s oil and gas sector.
In what ways is the IMP contributing to Mexico’s energy security and sovereignty?
Energy security and sovereignty are the pillars this administration is trying to consolidate, and from many points of view a predominant factor in achieving this is technology. Here, the IMP has a strong position as the entity used by the federal government to drive technology development in the area of hydrocarbons in Mexico. Further, it has become the principal centre for technology research and development in the industry, delivering the ultimate solutions to the problems hampering the Mexican oil and gas sector.
The IMP provides an array of services covering the entire value chain, including exploration studies, seismic data analysis, reservoir modelling, well engineering and project development, among others. Our contribution is essential in these times, especially when it comes to enhancing and/or maintaining production rates, which is one of the country’s main goals. We have various developments for reservoir modelling and we have developed specialised software for this purpose, serving as important agents in the boosting of exploration and production activities.
In the midstream, we are working to contribute to further energy security by upgrading the integrity of pipelines and facilities and also in projects for underground storage of oil and gas. For example, we’ve developed a technology that characterises depleted deposits and saline caverns, determining their state and potential to store hydrocarbons. We’re working with Cenagas and private firms on this technology, which is essential for the attainment of energy security.
In the downstream, we are actively participating in the development of the Dos Bocas refinery. This venture aims to achieve oil self-sufficiency, putting a stop to the country being a net importer of refined products. We have a very active participation in this project as the only national licensee for processing technologies.
We are present in the areas of hydrotreating, the production of ultra-low sulphur gasoline and the crude separation process, as well as high energy efficiency designs and deep cuts, which enhance the profitability in the refining process. Additionally, we’ve been involved in the hydrological and environmental studies, as well as in the design of the groundwork where the refinery is being constructed.
Lastly, the institute is making laudable efforts to reduce the levels of methane emissions in the Mexican hydrocarbons industry, which is crucial to sustainability.
To what extent is the IMP helping Pemex boost in-country exploration and production results?
The institute is fully committed to enhancing Pemex’s production rates. In the technical and technological arena, we work hand-in-hand with Mexico’s NOC providing methodologies and specialists with a strong technical profile, as well as specialised software. In addition, we work to secure production, allowing Pemex to maintain stable production.
For example, we carried out a study of all the depleted deposits to determine which ones were the most viable, had the highest value and meant the least risk to investment. With Pemex, we have already analysed more than 60 fields and we are in the process of analysing another 70 to determine the best way to develop them. The majority of these fields are maturing ones, so we are working on reservoir characterisation to increase recovery rates. We have extensive know-how on carbonate and fractured reservoirs, especially in the southeast of the country. It is here where we are implementing EOR to increase production and halt depletion.
In this quest, we are applying many of our own techniques and patents, among which we have a unique technique called transitométrica, which aims to determine the principles of inorganic matter formation by measuring the temporal record of three thermodynamic variables – pressure, volume and temperature – plus a thermal variable, the calorimetric signal. This allows us to evaluate all the problems related to fouling in production pipelines, produced by elements like asphaltenes. From there we can determine the best alternatives to prevent this phenomenon.
How invested is the institute in catering new patents and technologies to the Mexican and global industry?
We have developed an array of diverse patents in-house, and these are now serving the industry. This is evidenced via our 600-800 tools installed in oil and gasfields spread across the north of the country. For example, we have a special tool we have patented, used for gas or high-liquid wells, that allows operators to maintain production and also manage the energy of the reservoir in a suitable way to prolong its productive life. This technology is even being tested by renowned IOCs such as Lukoil and we are currently doing technological and physical tests to take this technology to other latitudes.
Despite this, our patents and technologies are mainly dedicated to helping Pemex enhance its performance and overcome potential difficulties. Our devices/patents could be grouped into: tools for production, chemical products, thermodynamic and physiochemical analysis, and field development planning. The institute is working with Pemex in these key areas.
Tell us about the progress and impact of the Olmeca refinery.
The Olmeca refinery, located in Tabasco, is the star project of this administration and will process 340,000 bpd of Maya-type heavy crude. The IMP was key in determining where to build this refinery, which is located on the coastline in a very strategic area geographically speaking. The refinery is established next to the maritime terminal of Dos Bocas, where more than a million barrels leave every day. This is an advantage because crude oil will not have to be transported long distances to be shipped. There are also several private ports in its surroundings which makes it strategic in terms of logistics both to construct the facility and to run it.
In addition, this refinery is designed with a high conversion rate and high energy efficiency. While an international-class refinery should have around 45% conversion to gasoline, this one has a technology that has a yield of 50% conversion to gasoline. This means that it will produce 170,000 bpd of gasoline, with a high conversion to diesel, both products with ultra-low sulphur content and zero levels of fuel oil.
As for the development of the plant, it now [in December 2021] stands at 70-75% completion, and is due to be finished by July 2022. The contractors developing this project boast great technical capacity – this includes Samsung Engineering, Techint and ICA Fluor, who have brought to the table international practices. The procurement strategy was also done in a swift way. There are around 4,300 technical teams across the world contributing to this venture, in addition to the importance of local content seen through the reactivation of the steel and concrete industries in Mexico, which have experienced an uptick.
In what ways are you involved in the Olmeca mega-project?
At the beginning of the project, we determined the groundwork needed to get started, and carried out basic engineering, project management and licensing, as well as environmental and hydrologic studies. The project is being developed under efficiency schemes, following the “open book” modality, which has provided it with important economic savings and has cut its duration. We were also in charge of selecting the most suitable technologies for the refinery.
As mentioned, we did very intricate studies as to the location, Dos Bocas being beneficial as it has cabotage capabilities, which facilitates sending the product anywhere across the Mexican republic and processing it through other ports to the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, it is relatively well connected to the refinery of Salina Cruz, in Oaxaca, which has direct access to Mexico’s Pacific coast and California.
Thus, Olmeca is a venture that’s highly viable in both economic and technical terms, and very much needed for the country as imports of refined product are extremely high. It will be a step in the right direction to ultimately achieve energy sovereignty.
What main goals does the institute aim to achieve in the coming years?
Firstly, the institute wants to achieve a deeper integration with Pemex. We’ve taken important steps to solidify this decades-long relationship. As a result, we’ve doubled the services catered to them. Also, our objective is to maintain the sustainability of the institute. We receive a stipulated amount of financing from the Fondo Mexicano del Petróleo, but our operational expenses are self-generated. We don’t have federal funds. We are proud of this and want to continue to be economically self-sufficient.
Our third goal is to continue sharpening our technological content. It is now essential for us to determine what technologies are already mature and what we have to improve to achieve the best use and recovery of hydrocarbons.
However, more than ever, we want to make sure that these processes have a positive impact on the environment. The energy transition is a matter we should not leave to one side. To that end, we already have an eye on the production of biofuels, R&D on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, CO2 transformation and even green hydrogen. So, we have to not only provide for an effective use of fossil fuels but also point towards alternative ways of developing energy which are the future.