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Mexico draws natural gas interest from France

Interest in auction for offshore Mexican reserves, meanwhile, gets little attention.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto reviews natural gas potential during meeting with French energy company ENGIE in Paris. Photo by Dennis Brack/Pool/UPI
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto reviews natural gas potential during meeting with French energy company ENGIE in Paris. Photo by Dennis Brack/Pool/UPI | License Photo

PARIS, July 16 (UPI) -- French energy company Engie said Thursday it signed a series of agreements to work closer with its Mexican counterparts in the natural gas market.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gerard Mestrallet met in Paris with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to discuss cooperation in the Mexican energy sector, opening its doors after a long period of state control.

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"We are keen to contribute to the major energy reform that Mexico is undergoing," Mestrallet said.

Mexican lawmakers last year put the final touches on plans embraced by Peña Nieto aimed at drawing international energy companies into the nation's energy sector. The move opened up Mexico to private investors after more than 70 years under a monopoly controlled by state-run Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.

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The Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Energy Department, said in a mid-2014 review the changes will be "profound."

The French energy company said it signed cooperation agreements with Pemex and its electricity and natural gas counterparts to work together on natural gas and power development projects.

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With PEMEX in particular, the French natural gas leader said it would explore the potential for liquefied natural gas projects on the western coast of Mexico. Engie, formerly known as GDF Suez, signed a memorandum of understanding with PEMEX to develop natural gas in Mexican basins last year.

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"ENGIE is committed not only to investing in energy projects in Mexico, but also in sharing our international experience," Mestrallet said. "We believe that these new agreements are a reflection of this spirit."

His sentiments come as Mexico wraps up a pioneering auction for the rights to tap into shallow-water fields. Australia's BHP Billiton and Woodside Petroleum each prequalified as bidders, though few of the supermajors like French energy company Total registered for the bidding round.

The Mexican government blamed low oil prices for the lack of interest.

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The government is auctioning off rights to 14 tracts covering an estimated 2,600 square miles with reserve estimates of around 686 million barrels of oil equivalent, with most of that existing as light crude oil.

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