A number of firms are now shooting offshore surveys and reprocessing earlier scans for shale deposits
State -run Pemex abandoned seismic studies entirely for the first nine months of 2016, as part of a sharp cost-cutting measures brought in at the start of the year. The firm had shot 645 square km of 2D seismic in 2015, and 485 square km of 3D, before work dried up between January and September this year. But data released by Mexico’s General Ports and Merchant Marine Authority (CGPMM) last week suggest activity is beginning to ramp up again. The authority said that eight ships working for Schlumberger subsidiary Western GECO were shooting 3D seismic in the area around the Suuk well in Pemex’s Amoca-Yaxche-0004 Block. The company was granted regulatory approval to explore the area, which has average water depths of 45 metres, in April 2015. Pemex has company in the area too. A second exploration project to shoot 40 square km of 2D seismic in the Hokchi field is also currently under way. Four vessels are conducting the work for Argentine firm Pan American Energy (PAE), which won the asset in the shallow-water tender held in September 2015. Separately, in November the National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH) issued permits for new seismic data reprocessing work to a firm called Seismic Enterprises Mexico (SEM). The permits are part of a broader framework, called the Permits for Surface Exploration and Survey (ARES), that was brought in under Mexico’s broad energy reform in August 2014. ARES allows companies to carry out seismic surveys at their own risk, without automatically giving them the right to explore or produce based on the data they have found. The CNH has so far issued 43 permits based on this scheme to 23 companies. France’s CGG has secured six permits, with Norway’s PGS picking up five. Schlumberger and US-based Seitel each received four permits. A total of 52 firms have won approval to join a shortlist of prequalified ARES firms, but most have not submitted projects. Indeed, only 17 of the permits have actually triggered new data acquisition projects. A further 12 permits are for reprocessing earlier scans and the remaining 14 have either been returned to the CNH or allowed to expire unused. SEM’s permit is for reprocessing data from some 56,500 square km of the Burgos Basin, an onshore area close to the US border that produces close to a fifth of the country’s natural gas output and holds a quarter of its proven reserves. SEM is looking for evidence of shale in deposits called Pimienta, Agua Nueva and Basamento, areas that already yield conventional dry gas.