Mexico imports more gasoline as oil production drops

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Apr. 22 -- Mexico's gasoline imports rose to 360,700 b/d in March, the highest level since November 2007. This coincided with a 7.8% decline in the country's oil production in this year's first quarter to 2.91 million b/d, largely due to declining output from traditional oil fields.

State-owned Petroleos Mexicanos said March gasoline imports were up 6.5% compared with February, largely due to increasing numbers of cars in the country that consume some 41% of total supply.

Gasoline imports are projected to increase by 58% to 489,000 b/d by 2015 unless new refining capacity comes online, according to a recent report by the energy ministry. It said Pemex has not built a refinery since 1979.

Pemex is already drafting plans for a plant with two separate refining trains that would process 300,000 b/d by about 2015.

Elsewhere, Pemex's Minatitlan refinery will add 100,000 b/d in capacity in 2009.

Still, to fully reduce imports, officials say Mexico will need to build a refinery every 3-4 years over the next 2 decades.

Oil production drop
Mexico's premier Cantarell field produced 1.15 million b/d of oil in March, down 5.7% from February and—according to the energy ministry—the seventh straight month of waning production at the field.

During the first quarter, production from Cantarell averaged 1.2 million b/d, which was less than the 1.3 million b/d Pemex had targeted for the year.

Due to the reduced output, Mexico's exports of oil fell by 12.5% to 1.5 million b/d in the quarter, compared with the year-ago period.

Despite its falling crude production, Pemex witnessed a 13.2% growth in its natural gas production in the first quarter to 6.59 bcfd.

In March alone, gas production hit a record 6.68 bcfd, coming largely from fields at Cantarell, Samaria-Luna, Burgos, Lankahuasa, and Veracruz.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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