As Mexico prepares for an upturn in exploration and production activities, MAN Diesel & Turbo is setting its sights on bringing its global capabilities to the Mexican market, eyeing a niche in gas lift, among other technologies and applications. “Gas lift consists of natural gas compressed and injected at a high pressure to increase oil production rates,” says Jaime Zubillaga, Managing Director of MAN Diesel & Turbo Mexico.
With many mature fields both in PEMEX’s hands and to be assigned in future rounds, Zubillaga sees some potential for MAN, one of the world’s leaders in the design and manufacture of compressors, gas and steam turbines for oil and gas applications. Greenfield projects that were auctioned in Rounds 1.4, 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4, as well as the Trion and Nobilis-Maximino farmouts, also pose an opportunity for the company.
A major project that demonstrates MAN Diesel & Turbo’s capabilities, says Zubillaga, is located in the North Sea. “An example of our subsea gas compression capabilities can be found in the Asgard field in Norway, which belongs to Statoil, and where we installed the only worldwide subsea compressors application in the world,” Zubillaga says. On Nov. 17, 2017, these subsea compressors reached 30,000 hours of successful operation at 300m water depth. The subsea compressors in the project have been paid off by the revenue generated from the increased gas production, as they allow for higher recovery rates because of the proximity of the compression equipment to the field, which leads to higher efficiencies, Zubillaga adds. “In a highly expensive industry like deepwater operations, every percentage point of efficiency counts, and a subsea compressor makes a great difference.”
Despite Mexico’s tendency to resist new technologies and the relative novelty of private companies entering the country, Zubillaga expects to begin introducing this technology soon. “It is feasible to install this technology in Mexico because our target is precisely the development of deepwater fields,” he says. “Of course, this technology will not be implemented right away but in two to three years we expect to be offering them to operators in Mexico.
Mexico already implements several Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) technologies, and one major experience is exemplified by PEMEX’s activities in the Cantarell offshore fields. In these fields, PEMEX uses gaseous nitrogen to improve production using MAN Diesel & Turbo compressors. “We are the only manufacturer present in the gaseous nitrogen market in Mexico,” Zubillaga says.
The gaseous nitrogen facility, located onshore in Atasta, Campeche, produces 1,500 million cubic feet per day. It is owned by the German group Linde, and today it is the biggest nitrogen-producing plant in the world. It has five production modules, and all the turbomachinery was supplied by MAN Diesel & Turbo, for a total installed power of 500MW. The plant takes nitrogen out of the air and after a complex process, compresses it to high pressures so it can be injected into the Cantarell fields. The plant has been working since 2000. It has been expanded and the contract was renewed with PEMEX until 2027.
MAN Diesel & Turbo is also present in midstream, making sure that fuels are distributed efficiently across the country, says Zubillaga. “We are executing a significant long-term service and maintenance contract for the main and auxiliary engines of PEMEX Logística’s major fleet of oil-product tankers, which includes 16 vessels. This fleet is of key importance for Mexico to transport oil products on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific.”
To round off MAN Diesel & Turbo’s presence in the country, the company has equipment in nearly all PEMEX refineries. “Our presence is so critical that, if one of our compressors stops, the whole refining production process stops,” Zubillaga says. Despite the importance of its machines, Zubillaga finds it discouraging that PEMEX is not providing that machinery with the necessary preventive maintenance. “Our equipment is running mainly because of its high quality, even though PEMEX has not provided proper maintenance services so far,” he says. “While equipment from other companies would have already failed, ours are still running. This is both a source of pride for us and a source of difficulty for the country.”