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Potential oil and gas deposits put Yucatán oil platform on auction block

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An oil exploration drilling rig sits in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Getty

One month after the president issued a decree that was supposed to protect Los Alacranes, or Scorpion Reef, the nearby Yucatán oil platform is suddenly in play.

New bidding for deep-water oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico is scheduled for Jan. 31, announced Energy Secretary Pedro Joaquin Coldwell.

The long-quiet Yucatán Platform is one of 30 blocks in the bid, alarming a former government official.

The fishing industry would be severely harmed by the offshore oil exploration, said Delfín Quezada Domínguez, a former Yucatán Government Fishery commissioner.

Round 2.4 Offshore blocks in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Yucatán Platform was never previously mentioned as a major prospect, but recent seismic studies indicate greater potential for oil and gas reserves than previously thought.

Mexico’s Deputy Secretary of Energy for Hydrocarbons Aldo Flores said at Wednesday’s presentation that the Yucatán Platform might be regarded as a dark horse, but extensive seismic studies point to significant potential reserves.

In the early 1970s, Pemex drilled 10 exploratory wells into the platform in a quest for potential oil reserves.

In an interview published Monday in Por Esto, Quezada Domínguez says that plans to re-activate oil exploration in the zone were “done in the dark, deceiving society, without asking the society and perhaps not the government of the state.”

Opening up the platform would spell doom for 17 fishing communities, affecting 25,000 families, not to mention tourism, he said.

He added that there is time to mobilize peacefully and through formal channels to prevent the Yucatán Platform from being auctioned off on Jan. 21, 2018.

“The saddest thing is (the platform) is a few kilometers away is Los Alacranes National Park,” Quezada Domínguez added. The park is home to a large natural reef.

On Pemex’s radar

Since 2013, Pemex has been actively exploring potential drilling sites near the reef, under the impression that Yucatán’s offshore oil riches could make Mexico the third-largest oil producing nation.

At one point, Pemex planned 15 exploratory wells, all located in the area known in English as Scorpion Reef, 130 kilometers north of the port of Progreso. The coral reef has been designated a national park and is part of the United Nations Biosphere Reserve.

Yucatán’s potential as a major oil producer can be linked to the Chicxulub crater, which is thought to have helped the formation of energy fossil formations in the sea off the peninsula.

January’s bid includes 30 oil fields across the Gulf of Mexico, in four zones comprising 71,000 square kilometers, with a revenue potential of over US$30 billion, estimated Deputy Secretary of Energy Aldo Flores.

The other zones in play are in the Lost Folded Belt (Cinturon Plegado Perdido), Southeast Basin (Cuenca del Sureste) and Mexican Ranges (Cordilleras Mexicanas).

Sources: Por Esto, Progreso Hoy, Natural Gas Intel, Prensa Latina

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