Óscar Valle Molina
Former Coordinator of the Deepwater R&D Program
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Foreign Models Guide Changes in Offshore Demands

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 16:12

Q: How has the IMP’s involvement in offshore technology evolved throughout its history?

A: The Mexican Petroleum Institute (IMP) began its involvement in offshore projects back in 1972 by developing human resources to cater to then emerging demands in the oil and gas industry. We began dispatching institute staff to be instructed in those technologies we lacked experience with. This allowed us to analyze the technical feasibility of components in offshore projects and to develop technological solutions to guarantee the success of PEMEX’s offshore production. The first application of our accumulated knowledge and experience took place in 1980 in shallow water projects in the Bay of Campeche. We later decided to expand our reach to deepwater research projects; however, Mexico did not have any deepwater fields at the time and our concept of deepwater only extended to depths of 200m, which are now considered shallow water.

In 1984, Brazil discovered the Marlim field in deepwater. We decided to capitalize on the fact that we had already been involved in Joint Industry Projects (JIPs) with Petrobras and sent one IMP representative to work with the Brazilian NOC’s team. Our representative conducted several analyses similar to those of the operator, taking note of the procedures followed and the required standards to succeed in deepwater. We carefully inspected the project’s requirements to verify whether we had the necessary capabilities to fulfill them. Even though our expertise was restricted to shallow water, we were relentless in developing our technical skills for the deepwater segment. As other operators in different countries began exploring deepwater possibilities, IMP developed its capabilities through JIPs with companies other than PEMEX for future application in Mexican deepwater activities. By taking this road we were able to build relationships with international players in the offshore oil and gas industry, and also encouraged our personnel to specialize in deepwater operations at institutions in other countries. As IMP has already shown, training personnel on the latest technologies is essential for PEMEX to become truly competitive.

Q: Which lessons could Mexico learn from Brazil’s approach to technology and knowledge development?

A: In the late 1960s, Brazil set a remarkable precedent by creating CENPES (Leopoldo Américo Miguez de Mello Research Center) through a partnership with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. This enabled Petrobras to use this new institution’s promotion of scientific and technological research to advance the Brazilian oil and gas industry as well as interact with other companies through JIPs. Later on, a deepwater training program for Petrobras personnel called PROCAP was created. Its first edition took place in 1986, and focused on deepwater projects up to depths of 1,000m. After proving its success a second round was implemented in 1993, PROCAP 2000, where technological expertise would now tackle depths of up to 2,000m. This was followed in 2000 by PROCAP 3000, which took endeavors even deeper to 3,000m. The importance of such efforts to Brazil’s technological advancement serves as an example for PEMEX in its partnership with IMP, as well as other companies or research institutes. It is imperative to combine all the available opportunities to capitalize on PEMEX’s human resources, technological capabilities, and innovative solutions to ensure its competitive position as the Mexican market opens to private participation. IMP and PEMEX should work directly together to strengthen the technical capabilities of PEMEX’s personnel by fostering participation in high-level educational programs abroad, while empowering local institutions to cater to the growing industry’s future needs. IMP has already taken the first step by piquing the interest in 1984. We have to take the next steps together with universities, associations, institutions, the government, and PEMEX itself.

Q: What is the role of IMP’s R&D branch in developing technologies for PEMEX?

A: It is important to say that future collaborations with PEMEX will largely depend on how our relationship is established after the secondary laws are approved. Hopefully, our mandate as a provider of technological services will remain the same and IMP’s R&D branch will be able to interact more directly with PEMEX. If IMP is able to increase its technological development capabilities through research efforts, PEMEX will be benefited from our expertise and will become more competitive as new technologies are harnessed.