Mexico’s existing oil reserves are dwindling so fast the country could go dry within nine years without new discoveries.
That’s the message from the National Hydrocarbons Commission, which said Friday that the reserves fell 10.6 percent to 9.16 billion barrels in 2016, from 10.24 billion barrels a year earlier. Once the world’s third largest crude producer, Mexico’s proven reserves have declined 34 percent since 2013.
The decline in proven reserves is driven by record-low drilling activity the last three years, according to CNH Commissioner Hector Acosta. State-owned producer Petroleos Mexicanos drilled 21 wells last year, a record low, after averaging 31 per year since 2010.
“If there isn’t drilling, it is going to be difficult to incorporate new finds,” Acosta said. “The production figures and indicators that we are observing, tell us that there are flaws in the drilling activities being carried out by Pemex.”
The diminished production comes from a combination of reduced investment and the continued maturation of fields, said Cesar Alejandro Mar, Adjunct Director of Reserves. He set 8.9 years as a time frame for the reserves to run out if no new exploration occurs.
Pemex, meanwhile, said in an e-mailed statement that it added 684 million barrels of probable crude to the reserves last year, and “will continue working to increase reserves and restitution rates to higher levels.”
Mexico ended Pemex’s production monopoly in 2013 to let private operators develop oil in the country for the first time since the 1930s. Production is set to fall below 2 million daily barrels this year, the lowest levels since 1980, Pemex has said. Overall, crude production has declined every year since 2004.
Given increased crude development activity anticipated in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico by private producers, the country’s production is forecast to climb to 3.4 million barrels a day by 2040, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.
Italian producer Eni SpA, which won rights to develop a Gulf of Mexico field in 2015, recorded the country’s offshore find by a foreign company in more than seven decades on March 23.
“Mexico isn’t the only country that has seen its reserves diminished during a difficult time for the industry worldwide,” said Juan Carlos Zepeda, a CNH Commissioner, when the numbers were released. “International oil companies are just now starting to return to an improved investment rhythm.”