Oscar Roldán
Former Director General
View from the Top

Oil Data is the New Oil

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 12:03

Q: How have you presented the function and importance of CNIH to the federal administration?

A: Our appeal has been based on the strategic value of the data and the importance of keeping technical information outside of the national operator’s control. We welcome the government’s emphasis on strengthening PEMEX, but not by returning CNIH to PEMEX’s control. Article 32 of the Hydrocarbons Law explicitly protects national ownership of this data, which must be housed under a centralized institution that can issue clear provisions and schemes regarding who may consult it and how. This creates certainty for companies, giving them clarity on their rights and obligations regarding the use and reporting of information. We are not just talking about seismic data, which is essential, but also information like location, depth, pressure and production of wells drilled, which is what generates more data like types of fields, opportunities and even things like alignments between fields and technologies. In general, the new administration has been receptive to our arguments and our work; in particular, it has been receptive to the finalization of CNIH’s creation and integration process, which began in August 2014 and ended with the recent inauguration of our two lithoteques in Hidalgo and Yucatan, along with the coming publication of our latest information provisions from CONAMER.

Q: What role does CNIH play in consolidating recent exploration successes and the new information they are generating?

A: We worked with the new operators on their discoveries: Cholula-1 by Murphy Oil and Zama-1 by Premier, Talos and Sierra, for example. They made those discoveries using our information packages. Inputting all the new data generated by these discoveries and all the new seismic acquired in the last four years is an ongoing challenge for us. We have grown 30 percent in terms of petabytes just in the last three years, from 10 to almost 14 petabytes, in addition to the geophysical information we continue to receive every day. To relieve the bottlenecks that the processing of all this data creates, we work with operators to elaborate clear guidelines on how new information is delivered to us. We spend a lot of time and resources designing formats in which we deliver information packages so that operators can become familiar with them because we expect new information to be inputted into these exact same formats. This streamlines the digital processing of data.

Q: How successful have your information leasing frameworks been and how might they change along with the value of the data?

A: I would say they have been very successful. First of all, because their development process was extremely complicated. Everybody had to be satisfied with them and everybody was ready to hate them. New operators were outraged that they were going to be charged for using this information and exploration companies were outraged that they were also going to have to pay even if they were going to be generating so much data for us. The development process for these frameworks and prices was a tricky negotiation with all these parties. Additionally, the payments that came in through these frameworks accumulated into a US$350 million fund that made us fully self-sufficient and independent of the national budget. Taxpayers did not pay a single peso of our salaries, the cost of our operations or even our new building. In other words, the frameworks were successful in that, they financed our consolidation and enabled our existence as an oil and gas regulator that did not cost people anything, which is how it should be when you think about it.

Now that we have taken so much advantage of that revenue to complete our formation and establishment as an institution, we can perhaps eventually lower some of these prices to reflect the fact that a great deal of new information is being generated from new wells drilled and financed by private operators, avoiding any cost for the Mexican state. The prices must not only reflect the new value of the data but also its new origins and sources.


National Hydrocarbons Information Center (CNIH) concentrates all the geological information available regarding Mexico’s oil and gas reservoirs and processes it to build data packages it can lease to operators.