Mexican energy officials looking to tap Acadiana’s expertise

Lafayette international business officials on Thursday introduced the first among many Mexican energy executives who will be visiting Acadiana to tap south Louisiana oil and gas know-how.

Mauricio Garcia Palacios, president of the Association of Southeastern Mexico Oil Companies, said Mexico’s recent constitutional reforms affecting the country’s national oil company — Petróleos Mexico, or Pemex — have opened opportunities for Acadiana.

“Pemex needs the technology,” Palacios said at Le Centre International de Lafayette. “We see opportunities in a very wide range.”

Palacios said the reforms enacted in the past year to open up Pemex were a response to its dwindling oil production. Where Pemex used to pump 5 million barrels of oil to market each day, it now gets 2.5 million, he said.

Palacios’ visit this week preceded a large group of Mexican oil and gas officials that plans to visit Lafayette next month. The group will further pitch opportunities a new Pemex opens up and talk about upcoming projects and the procurement process, said Philippe Gustin, trade manager at Le Centre International.

That event is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Oct. 2 at the River Oaks Catering and Events Center on Kaliste Saloom Road. Cost is $100 — $85 if reserved before Sept. 10 — for two people. More information about the event is available by emailing Vanessa Paredes at vparedes@lafayettela.gov or calling (337) 291-5474.

Christophe Pilut, Le Centre International information specialist, said his organization’s goal is to inform Louisiana’s oil and gas sector about opportunities available in Mexico.

Late last year, Mexico started rewriting the rules to open up Pemex for foreign investment for the first time in 76 years. In 1938, President Lázaro Cárdenas nationalized the oilfields and threw American and other oil companies out, taking over production in the name of the Mexican people. Since then, oil and gas producers such as Shell and Chevron could not buy and own what sat below Mexico and its offshore waters.

But decades of going it alone left Pemex a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy that has stifled innovation, the company’s critics say. For years, Pemex’s production has been falling.

Mexican energy officials hope the reforms also bring in more of the service companies — hundreds of them are located in south Louisiana — that are vital to extracting oil and gas.

Big service companies such as Superior Energy Services and Frank’s have long had a presence in Mexico working for Pemex. Officials now hope having the Shells and Chevrons of the oil and gas world develop fields with proven reserves — especially in deep waters off the Mexican coast — will produce more wealth for the country.

Also opening up is foreign inclusion in midstream industries, such as pipelines to transport the hydrocarbons, and downstream refineries for processing, Palacios said. He said the country also is looking for help in building the country’s natural gas storage capacity.

By 2018, the open market will extend far downstream and allow U.S. companies and others to “come into Mexico and set up gas stations,” Palacios said.

Energy service companies make up the bulk of membership in the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition, or LAGCOE, a Lafayette-centered organization that puts on a trade show every two years, with October 2015 being the next.

LAGCOE Executive Director Angela Cring, who attended Le Centre International’s news conference Thursday, said service companies are not jumping into Mexico without a lot of thought.

“They’re cautiously optimistic,” she said.

Cring said small firms will watch the bigger companies for guidance.