Concerns Raised Over Contract Release Program in Mexico

(S&P Global, 6.Sep.2018) — Mexico gas market observers have expressed concern that a lack of liquidity and supply guarantees will complicate the final phase of Pemex’s natural gas contract release program, which is designed to allow the entry of new gas marketers.

Mexico’s Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) last week approved the final phase of the release program, known as PCC for the acronym of its Spanish name. The final rules of the regulation have yet to be published in Mexico’s Official Federal Journal (DOF).

The commission joined the second and third phases of the program as one and set its rules in a motion approved August 31.

In January 2017, CRE approved the program, setting the goal for Pemex to release 70% of its gas marketing contracts under a four-year period.

As of March 2018, Pemex has released 30% of its marketing portfolio, 10% more than the goal established in PCC’s first phase, which began in February 2017.

CRE said Friday the final phase would maintain some first phase rules, including full transparency on offers made to users, and a no-penalty clause to end contracts with Pemex.

Other rules to be retained include one requiring Pemex to provide binding offers to users, and another requiring provision of a base formula to allow comparison of offers from Pemex and new marketers.

The energy manager at one of the largest industrial users of gas in northern Mexico told S&P Global Platts that insufficient access to cross-border pipelines is limiting the entry of new marketers.

“At the time of selecting a marketer, the factors most important for users are the economic benefits and supply warranty,” the manager said.

Industrial users’ largest concern is finding a marketer that can offer a real supply alternative beyond Pemex and CFE, the manager said. “We have seen both state companies have a monopoly in most cross-border pipelines,” he added.

EYES OPENED

“The PCC’s first phase opened the eyes to users of the supply alternatives beyond Pemex as well as the mechanics and rules of the new market,” he said.

Before Pemex’s gas supply was taken for granted and users didn’t know how to optimize its gas supply and consumption, the manager said.

“For users, the opportunity in the PCC program is to diversify their supply portfolio beyond Pemex,” he added.

“It is true Pemex is still behind most cross-border pipeline capacity, but the PCC program has empowered users by giving us more information and thus increasing our negotiating power to a certain extent,” he added.

Gonzalo Monroy, managing director of Mexico City-based energy consulting firm GMEC, told Platts he has concerns related to PCC’s last phase.

“For this final phase, due to the lack of reliable private supplies, practically everyone will sign with Pemex or CFE,” Monroy said.

INFRASTRUCTURE ACCESS

The PCC was well drafted, but realistically it has a limited possibility of being applied. It is hard to migrate to a new marketer if it doesn’t have access to reliable infrastructure, Monroy said.

“Contracts have to be sold desegregated in its different components; companies can quit their contract without a penalty; all that is good. But at the end of the day, everything comes down to supply warranty,” Monroy said.

Mexico seeks to have an open access market, but this goal is difficult to achieve due to lack of liquidity and access to cross-border capacity for new marketers, he added.

Market participants have told Platts that the three private companies growing the most in Mexico are Shell, BP and Macquarie.

Monroy said these companies have enough upstream assets in the US to allow them to negotiate with CFE and Pemex for market access in Mexico.

‘However, as a marketer, if you have no bargaining position, no trading chip, you’re hanged,” Monroy said.

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