The Misión Block: 20 years of milestones and challenges
Two decades ago, Tecpetrol was awarded a field in the Burgos Basin, when Mexico opened up its hydrocarbons sector after 85 years of being state-run. The company’s extensive expertise in mature fields, in addition to the application of technology and professional management have all helped to construct a story that is still relevant today.
It was around noon on November 3, 2003, when a new announcement reverberated around the Tecpetrol offices in Buenos Aires. For the first time since the hydrocarbons sector was nationalized in 1938, the Mexican government was allowing private and foreign companies to operate on its territory, and Tecpetrol had obtained a service contract in the Burgos Basin. "We won a field" were the words heard echoing down in the hallways. It was the beginning of an intense yet fruitful experience, which evolved through two decades of geological discoveries, in a context of volatile prices and many challenges, but continued to grow regardless. In fact, the contract that Tecpetrol originally signed with its consortium partners Mexican Grupo R for Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), has migrated to another scheme and is still current.
“Tecpetrol began working in Mexico in the Misión Block, but the Techint had already consolidated its historical presence in the country, through Ternium, Tenaris and Techint Engineering & Construction,” explains Humberto Fernández, Vice President of Tecpetrol México, who singles out the potential the region has to offer. “Based on its successful performance in the Misión Block, Tecpetrol has made other bids and tendered for other projects for Pemex, in addition to developing the Pesquería Power Plant,” he adds.
The area where the gas fields are located is sparsely populated. These are tight gas formations, requiring some stimulation, and distributed over an area of more than 1,300 km2 along the border between Mexico and the United States. The operations are connected to the nearest major city, Reynosa, by a highway, the destination for groups of hundreds of employees who have been posted there over the years to resolve engineering, contractual and management issues bolstering their professional development.
The Misión Block features mature fields that have been productive for many years and whose reserves are depleting but still have exploratory potential. "The efficient exploitation of a mature field is the result of in putting as much detail as possible into well location," details Rodolfo Taboada, Development Geologist Technical Advisor, who has been working in the field from the first evaluation plan. The numbers are themselves compelling: "In 2004, when we started drilling and doing workovers, production levels were some 50 mcfd and by 2011 we were hitting 132 million."
In the early 2000, the development of new rock stimulation techniques and 3D seismic exploration technologies meant that Pemex was able to allow private companies to extract the maximum potential from its reservoirs, while it turned to new offshore projects in the Gulf of Mexico, which were far more productive. Tecpetrol's experience in providing management and technology for this type of deposits was decisive for the signing of the multiple services contract that ensued. A technical reputation that extended to all areas. “Misión Block set the standard for all subsequent operations in terms of Security, as well as HSE,” analyzes Horacio Marín, President of Exploration & Production. “We developed a very good culture.”
Two decades recorded in a log
2003 - Allocation of the area. The evaluation of the area, the business plan and the agreement with Grupo R, a company in the region, were carried out.
2004 – Contract signing After a series of meetings with Pemex, an agreement was reached and the fields were gradually handed over for operation. The first was the Misión Block.
2007 - Record well The super productive Cali well reached 15 MMcfd. That same year, two drilling rigs began working in parallel.
2008 – Own operated A second wave of Argentine expatriates arrived at the operation. That year, the Santa Anita field was able to reach high production levels under Tecpetrol’s operation, especially the Arcabuz well.
2010 - Challenges With development well under way, when operations reached the maximum production flow of 137 MMcfd, a change in context put everyone to the test. Two employees working in the field were found dead after six months, an event today attributed to ongoing disputes between organized crime gangs. Today, two meeting rooms at the Venice base bear the names of Alberto Rodríguez González and Sergio Salinas de la Riva. It took a long time to resume operations under the protection of armed escorts provided by the armed forces.
2011 - Remote operation Tecpetrol's Security department was created in response to the complex situation experienced the previous year. The company also installed its first control room to monitor personnel and operations, a technology known as Digital oil, which is used today throughout operations. It was during this year that the shale boom in the United States caused international gas prices to drop from $13 to $3.
2014 - Migration The Mexican Energy Reform brought about an evaluation stage to migrate the financed public works contract (COPF) into an exploration and production contract (CEE), finally achieved in 2018.
2019 – Exploration plan The National Hydrocarbons Commission gave the green light for two wells to be drilled over a four-year period.
2020 – Community support The new contract brought about the creation of a different bond with local residents, which manifested itself in concrete assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
2022 – A surprising development in Arcabuz Between 2004 and 2023, 700 hydraulic fractures were carried out in the Misión Block, but it was not until 2022 that the first horizontal well was drilled with six fractures, opening up a promising outlook for the future.
2023 - At a steady pace With the approval of the additional exploration period, Tecpetrol is celebrating 20 years of uninterrupted activity in the Misión Block and consolidating its presence in Mexico.