José Luis Zúñiga
Energy Commission at COPARMEX Tabasco

Tabasco on Cusp of Oil and Gas Hub

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 15:49

In light of the Round 1.3 results, the state of Tabasco is emerging as a key player on Mexico’s oil and gas field. One of the country’s most significant oil discoveries was found in the municipality of Macuspana and major private players like Roma Energy and Grupo Diarqco are entering. In this context, José Luis Zúñiga, Presient of the Energy Commission at COPARMEX Tabasco, says the key to success will be a strong, integrated industry within the state. “Tabasco has been an important point of strategic development for everything that has to do with hydrocarbons in Mexico,” he says.

COPARMEX Tabasco is a business association with members from different sectors focused on attracting investment to the state. The Energy Commission within this chamber works to group and position companies from Tabasco in the supply chain and offers their services to companies that won blocks in the first and second licensing rounds. According to COPARMEX data, the business chamber has approximately 190 members working in the oil and gas industry, of which approximately 80 percent are small companies. 
“We gather companies from Tabasco, provide training and put them in contact with the winning companies, such as Grupo Diarqco, Roma Energy, Statoil and Murphy Oil,” says Zúñiga. Roma Energy won the Paraiso field and Grupo Diarqco won the Calicanto and Mayacaste blocks in Round 1.3. Statoil was part of the consortium that won blocks 1 and 3 and Murphy Oil won block 5, both in the shallow-water Salinas basin. “We organize business roundtables but we also meet with the operators to understand their criteria for selecting suppliers.”

COPARMEX Tabasco’s work includes the organization of the Oil and Gas Expo Procura, which has now taken place six times and serves as a vehicle to invite government agencies and large winning companies to the state. COPARMEX Tabasco has also invited companies new to the region to API Dos Bocas, to introduce them to existing investment opportunities. In general, the business chamber works as a liaison for newcomers to Tabasco, assisting them with tasks from finding office space to contacting the government. 

The association believes Tabasco has immense wealth below its surface. Historically, it has also been a center for logistics and distribution operations in Mexico. According to Zúñiga, in the next 25 years about 15 companies, both national and international, will settle in the state as operators for the production and distribution of hydrocarbons. 
Local companies from Tabasco have also joined the ranks of operators in the state’s hydrocarbon fields, buoyed by the opportunities that emerged in the wake of the Energy Reform. “The federal government’s first licensing round created conditions that allowed smaller companies to participate in the rounds,” explains Zúñiga. “This created an opening for companies from Tabasco, such as Roma Energy and Grupo Diarqco, which had previously provided services to oil companies such as PEMEX, Halliburton and Schlumberger, to participate in the licensing process and become operators.” These companies implemented strategies for participating in the licensing rounds on the basis of their experience as service companies. 

According to Zúñiga, not only is COPARMEX Tabasco focused on bringing the private sector together, the local content clause of the Energy Reform means its triplehelix approach between private sector, government and academia is standing it in good stead. This clause stipulates that 25 percent of what the winning companies contract must include Mexican local content. To achieve this objective, the federal government has created a fund called Proenergía, where local companies can present a proposal that could give them the opportunity to work with the new operators. 

But even with all these initiatives, Zuñiga predicts a shortage of human capital, and believes Tabasco’s oil and gas sector will have to look abroad to meet its needs. “We believe that the oil and gas industry is so demanding, so technical and so well paid, that local human resources are insufficient,” he says. “This is why many workers have been brought in from foreign countries or from other parts of Mexico, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Everybody is welcome in Tabasco.”