Mexico oil sector accidents raise doubts about deep water exploration

FILE PHOTO - An employee works on at the Centenario deep-water oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico January 17, 2014. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

By David Alire Garcia

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – As Mexico opens its energy market to more private investment, the country’s drive to exploit untapped deepwater oil riches has raised safety concerns due to mounting accidents that have blotted the country’s safety record.

The biggest Mexican oil refinery Salina Cruz has been offline since a fire broke out at the coastal facility on Wednesday following a tropical storm, the latest in a string of mishaps.

Violent summer storms have visited Mexico for years, but the country has very little experience in deep water drilling, a risky activity still marked by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon well blow out in the northern Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people and pumped 5 million barrels of oil into the sea. That disaster prompted a rethink of safety measures in the United States.

As a result, U.S. operators now have on permanent standby a so-called capping stack that ultimately sealed the well, while third-party inspectors verify deepwater project safety.

Mexico, which awarded its first eight deepwater projects in a December auction, so far has none of these safeguards.

“All these companies are going into Mexican deep waters naked with none of the protections set up on the U.S. side,” said George Baker, publisher of Mexico Energy Intelligence.

Industry executives and regulators say there is still time to ensure adequate protections are in place.

The first wells will be drilled as soon as 2019 and a second round of deep water blocks is due to be auctioned in December.

Carlos de Regules, head of Mexico’s oil safety regulator ASEA, said companies beginning deepwater operations, like France’s Total and China National Offshore Oil Corporation, already have clear rules to follow.

“The operators have to show they can react, contain and deal with the possibility of an out-of-control well,” he said.

De Regules said ASEA aims to certify third-party inspectors in the next year, but noted it was up to companies whether they wanted to follow the U.S. capping stack model or create their own.

Leaving it up to companies may not be enough, said Miriam Grunstein, a Mexico City-based oil regulation expert. “It’s up to (ASEA) to make sure the industry does it,” she said.

Alberto de la Fuente, president of the AMEXHI association of Mexican oil producers, said emergency response firms such as Oil Spill Response have entered Mexico, and the industry is examining its options.

“I’m positive about what’s been achieved, but we need to redouble our efforts,” he said.

(Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Editing by David Gregorio)

Share this article

Follow Offshore Energy Today

Events>

<< Jun 2017 >>
MTWTFSS
29 30 31 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 1 2

Oil & Gas Indonesia 2017

Oil & Gas Indonesia (OGI) is an exhibition focused on Oil and Gas Exploration, Production and Refining and showcases the largest exhibition…

read more >

Erasmus Energy Forum 2017

Join Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) on the paths to zero carbon energy

read more >

OGA 2017

OGA 2017 is the most beneficial way to meet, discuss and acquire the latest in the Oil & Gas industry! …

read more >

03rd OIL & GAS TANZANIA 2017

After a successful Oil & Gas Exhibition in 2016, Expogroup is all set for the 6th OIL & GAS AFRICA 2017…

read more >

Jobs>

QC Coordinator Offshore

Do you attach great importance to quality and do you have an affinity with offshore projects? Then read about what Van Oord can offer you.

apply

Electrician

For one of our clients we are looking for a Ships Electrician. Our client is a company with worldwide activities. You will work in a rotation of 4 till 6 weeks on and off.

apply

Assistant Driller

Maersk Drilling Norge AS was established in 1990 and employs a staff of approximately 1000 people.

apply