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Promise of Mexico’s Energy Reforms

Related Expertise Energy & Environment,

The Promise of Mexico’s Energy Reforms

April 9, 2014 By Eduardo León , Iván Martén , Raul Livas , and Marcelo Mereles

Mexico’s crucial energy sector is embarking upon historic and vital reforms. The country is the fourteenth-largest economy in the world and is blessed with abundant petroleum, natural gas, and renewable-energy resources. Mexico has a growing middle class, a burgeoning manufacturing sector, and a vibrant trade relationship with its neighbors—all of which add up to a bright economic future. But Mexico’s energy sector, hamstrung by state monopolies, rigid regulations, and a shortfall of capital, has long suffered from underinvestment and inefficiency. At every link in the value chain—from oil exploration to gasoline sales, from natural-gas transport to electricity distribution—Mexico’s energy sector has failed to keep up with rising demand. Rather than act as a tailwind for growth, energy has too often been a headwind.

This state of affairs is poised to change. In the summer of 2013, Mexico’s government, led by newly installed president Enrique Peña Nieto, proposed far-reaching constitutional reforms aimed at modernizing the energy sector and charging up growth. And in December 2013, Mexico’s congress approved what is likely to be the most significant economic legislation since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s. Over the course of 2014 and 2015, Mexico’s government will erect a new framework to govern its energy industries. For the first time in generations, these industries—oil and gas and electricity—will be fully open to foreign investors.

The highly sensitive energy sector has generally been the province of two major decentralized public entities, which were excluded from normal trade and competition provisions under Article 28 of Mexico’s constitution. On March 18, 1938, the government nationalized the oil industry. And for decades, March 18 has been celebrated as a national holiday. Generations of schoolchildren have learned that hydrocarbons are the patrimony of all Mexicans. Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the national oil company, has held a monopoly on hydrocarbon ownership, exploration, production, refining, and distribution. As such, it has grown into one of the largest crude-oil producers in the world, as well as one of Mexico’s largest sources of revenue. Pemex provides about 30 percent of the revenues of Mexico’s federal government. Since 1960, when Mexico’s power industry was nationalized, the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) has handled virtually all generation, transmission, and distribution activities.

But the pervasive and persistent shortcomings of the nationalized system have spurred politicians to act. Pemex’s oil production has fallen significantly as its core shallow-water Gulf of Mexico fields have matured and aged. Domestic refiners can’t keep up with surging demand for gasoline. The natural-gas boom that is energizing the U.S. economy has largely bypassed Mexico. The country’s electricity infrastructure is rickety, inefficient, and expensive. In a country hungry for power, the energy sector is chronically starved of capital. A series of legislative—that is, nonconstitutional—reforms enacted in 2008 failed to bring about significant change. As a result, it became increasingly clear that constitutional reforms were necessary.

The proposed changes promise to reform Mexico’s energy sector in two fundamental ways. First, private investment will be permitted throughout the entire oil-and-gas and power value chains. Second, the energy sector’s decentralized public entities—Pemex and CFE—will be transformed in an attempt to improve their efficiency and profitability. Both these processes are creating a need for new capital, expertise, and partnerships—and they will generate large, valuable opportunities for domestic and foreign companies.

In the coming months and years, investment opportunities will open across the value chain in the energy sector, including in oil production, the construction and management of new refineries, creating new pipeline capacity and bolstering existing capacity, building out gas storage and transport facilities, and revamping the country’s gasoline-station sector. Mexico’s power sector will be thrown open to offer companies the ability to invest in new power facilities, manage existing plants, and add clean energy to the mix.

Because of these opening markets, Mexico is poised to become a genuinely competitive and attractive investment destination in the global energy landscape.

Oil Exploration and Production: Challenges and Opportunities

Mexico’s exploration and production industry faces three major challenges. First, its oil production and reserves are in decline. Since 2004, when production peaked at almost 3.4 million barrels per day, crude output has fallen about 25 percent, to 2.5 million barrels per day. (See Exhibit 1.) The main reason? Mexico’s prolific oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico have reached maturity. The production of the Cantarell oil field, one of the world’s largest and most productive, has steadily declined in recent years, from 2.1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2004 to 0.4 million per day in 2013. In fact, nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of Mexico’s oil production comes from fields in which 50 to 75 percent of reserves have already been depleted, and an additional 46 percent comes from fields in which more than 75 percent of reserves have been tapped. While the average oil-producing country gets about 57 percent of its oil from mature fields (those with depletion of 50 percent or more), Mexico currently relies on such mature fields for 70 percent of its production. (The comparable figures for the U.S. and Canada are 47 percent and 51 percent, respectively.)

Pemex, the only entity permitted to explore for oil, has not successfully replaced production with new reserves. From 2000 through 2012, every major oil-producing region in the world added to proven reserves—except for Mexico, whose total proven reserves fell to below 50 percent of 2000 levels. As a result, Mexico’s reserves have fallen from the twelfth largest in the world in 2000 to the eighteenth largest.

The second major challenge facing exploration and production is the fact that Mexico’s oil reserves are going to be more difficult and expensive to reach. Having harvested most of the low-hanging fruit from its shallow-water oil wells, Pemex must spend more money to search for resources in new, harder-to-access areas. Mexico’s prospective resources are estimated at an impressive 115 billion barrels of oil equivalent. But 76 percent of these resources lie in deepwater and shale formations, which are significantly more expensive to develop. While the break-even point for developing conventional oil is less than $40 per barrel, it is $40 to $80 per barrel for deepwater oil, and $50 to $80 per barrel for shale oil. Pemex’s annual capital expenditures for exploration and production have risen from $5 billion in 2000 to $22 billion in 2012—nearly a fivefold increase. But reserves have not risen at anywhere near the same rate. As a result, Pemex’s cost per additional barrel of reserve, at $3.55 per barrel, is among the highest of all major oil-producing countries.

This presents a third challenge: Pemex’s ability to invest in exploration and development is limited. The company is a truly massive enterprise, reporting revenues of $123 billion in 2013. It plans to boost its annual investment from $19 billion in 2011 to $30 billion in 2016. But to develop all its prospective reserves, Pemex will require some $830 billion in capital expenditures. That seems impossible, considering Pemex’s precarious financial position. In a typical year, virtually all its operating profits are transferred to the government via taxation. Over the past six years, Pemex has reported losses of $30 billion. It currently has net equity of –$14 billion.

Energy reform aims to bring sustained reserve-replacement ratios above 100 percent and increase oil production from 2.5 million barrels per day to 3.0 million in 2018 and 3.5 million by 2025—a rise of 40 percent. Given the recent declines, these goals may seem far-fetched. But recent, similar reforms in Colombia (in 2003) and Brazil (in 1997) have resulted in compound annual growth rates (CAGR) in oil production of 6.4 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively. Through the fiscal reform that has already been approved, Mexico is aiming to lift the tax burden on Pemex while setting a competitive tax regime to foster private investment and production.


The optimistic figures about Mexico's potential for increased oil production may seem fanciful, especially given the recent declines in Pemex's output. But the resources are not hypothetical. Expert analysis shows that Mexican geological formations in some instances are direct extensions of commercially productive U.S. formations. In other instances, they are highly correlated with commercially productive U.S. equivalents. Pemex simply hasn't yet attempted to exploit those resources. (See the exhibit). Mexico's shale deposits include an extension of the Eagle Ford formation in Texas, which has proven highly productive and has attracted numerous operators to the region. In 2012, 4,143 drilling permits were issued for the Texas Eagle Ford shale. But in Mexican territory adjacent to Eagle Ford, just three permits were granted in 2012. Similarly, the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico contain scores of highly productive deepwater wells, with 137 drilled in 2012 alone. That year, only six deepwater wells were drilled in Mexico's Gulf waters.


Mexico’s vast untapped resources present an attractive opportunity to private companies. Estimates place Mexico’s deepwater resources at 27 billion barrels of oil equivalent, while its shale-oil reserves are the eighth largest in the world. (See Exhibit 2.) And just north of Mexico’s northern border—in Texas and in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico—producers have had great success tapping into such resources. (See “Proven Productivity.”)

Under the reforms, the state will maintain control of all hydrocarbons, and concessions will remain prohibited. But private companies will be allowed to participate in exploration and production through three methods: license contracts, profit sharing, and product sharing. Until Mexico’s congress passes the secondary laws and regulations, the specific contract and permit schemes for private companies will not be known in full detail. However, a set of the laws passed last December alongside the constitutional amendment shed some light on how these arrangements might work. The license contract is the least common—and is most similar to concessions. It allows the government to maintain ownership of the extracted oil and receive royalties and income taxes. Private players explore for and produce oil—and incur all associated costs—but they receive oil (or gas) from the state under specified terms. Profit sharing is more akin to a joint venture between the government and an operator, in which the government retains ownership of the extracted product and receives both income taxes and a share of the joint venture’s profit. The operator, in turn, receives a share of the profits from commercialization and shares costs with the government. In production sharing, the operator receives a share of production and incurs the cost. However, the production-sharing contract can include cost recovery clauses.

The government will only be able to deliver on the promises of reform if contracts are attractive when compared with those of other countries. As it is, Mexico stands out as an appealing market for exploration and production. A stable democracy, it is rated as a low country risk by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and the World Bank gives it a high rating for business environment attractiveness. In February, Moody’s upgraded Mexico’s sovereign credit rating to the coveted A grade as a result of the country’s macroeconomic stability and promise of regulatory changes.

Mexico’s vast resources and lack of national competition make available deepwater oil and shale most attractive to foreign players. Integrated oil companies—which perform multiple tasks, such as exploring, producing, refining, and distributing—and major international oil companies are best suited for deepwater exploration and production in Mexico, especially since they are currently responsible for 88 percent of crude-oil production in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Similarly, specialist companies (those that focus on one component of the process) and some international oil companies (currently responsible for 85 percent of Eagle Ford shale oil and gas) are best positioned to enter shale exploration and production in Mexico. Considering their strong financial resources, national oil companies from abroad may also be able to capitalize on Mexico’s new opportunities.

Oil Refining: Challenges and Opportunities

Refining in Mexico is controlled entirely by Pemex, whose six refineries have an installed capacity of 1.7 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. But Pemex is simply incapable of meeting demand effectively. Demand for refined goods is 50 percent higher than the current production of refined products. And since no new refining capacity has been built since 1979, Pemex’s aging infrastructure is not well suited for processing the heavy and ultra-heavy crude grades that increasingly dominate Mexican production. Compared with industry benchmarks, Pemex’s refineries are significantly more energy intensive, less efficient in distillate yield, and prone to more downtime. Only three Pemex refineries have deep-conversion technologies that allow for the transformation of lower-quality crude to gasoline. Because of inadequate maintenance budgets, malfunctions, and unplanned downtime, Pemex refineries typically operate at 71 percent of capacity—significantly lower than the 83 percent utilization average for refineries in countries that belong to the OECD. So even as crude oil remains a primary export, Mexico has been forced to increase its imports of refined petroleum products. From 2000 to 2012, gasoline imports achieved a 13 percent CAGR, while diesel imports reached a 10 percent CAGR. As a result, Mexico imports about half the gasoline that it uses.

The reforms open up the refining industry to private-sector players, through joint ventures with Pemex as well as the construction of independent refineries. And if companies were able to take on exploration and production as well as refining, they would be in a position to diversify risk, maximize production, and achieve integrated margin values. Companies could leverage refining assets for international trading and develop upstream business segments in which operational and capacity synergies emerge.

Downstream: Challenges and Opportunities

In Mexico’s oil industry, downstream activities have been partially open to private investment through different schemes. Pemex is exclusively responsible for maritime and pipeline transportation, as well as storage and import-export activities. Private participation in the transportation of products has been limited to auto tankers. Gasoline stations are private franchises in a controlled market, and only Mexican private investors or Pemex itself can participate—always using the Pemex brand.

Mexico’s downstream infrastructure is deficient in every area—pipelines, transport, storage, and distribution—in large part because of pressures imposed by the dependence on refined-product imports. The current pipeline system in Mexico is unbalanced, plagued by underutilization in certain sections and saturation in others. Currently, 40 percent of oil pipelines run at maximum capacity, making bottlenecks common. Additionally, although demand for oil products has increased by more than 30 percent since 2003, Mexico’s pipeline system hasn’t grown at all—and that is pushing the system to rely on expensive transportation alternatives. From 2006 to 2011, the volumes of pipeline transportation (which cost $6 per 1,000 ton-kilometer) and sea transportation ($12 per 1,000 ton-kilometer) fell at CAGRs of 1.9 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. But over the same period, rail transportation (which costs six times as much as pipeline) achieved a 21.6 percent CAGR, and road transportation (13 times more expensive than pipeline transport) reached a 7 percent CAGR. As a result, the cost of transporting oil products rose by 4 percent each year. With crude-oil production slated for growth, new private investment will be needed to replace aging pipelines.

Mexico’s downstream oil activities face other challenges as well. Pipeline theft of gasoline in Mexico is high and growing. Reuters reported that there were an estimated 1,500 illegal siphons in 2012, compared with 400 in 2009. The system loses 5,000 to 10,000 barrels of oil per day to theft. Inventory capacity has constantly shrunk in the past decade. The average OECD country has 31 days of gasoline inventory. But Mexico presently operates at much lower rates: 2.4 days for nonpremium, 7.5 days for premium, and 3 days for diesel. During peak driving weeks, fuel inventories can dip to less than one day. Pemex controls the branding, marketing, and supply of products offered in the nation’s 10,042 retail service stations, virtually all of which are owned by a very fragmented base of private investors. Franchisees are only able to offer different brands in lubricants and additives. With no foreign competition, Mexico’s gas stations have little incentive to improve customer service. The country’s consumer-protection agency estimates that 30 percent of gas stations in the country dispatch incomplete liters of gasoline while charging the full liter rate.

Meanwhile, driving is shifting into higher gear. In 2012, Mexico had about .27 cars per capita, the third-lowest ratio among OECD countries. But car sales have been rising. In 2013, 1.06 million new vehicles were sold in Mexico, up 7.7 percent from 2012. And sales in December 2013, at nearly 120,000, were the highest monthly total reported since before the financial crisis. Meanwhile, some 568,000 used cars were imported to Mexico in the first 11 months of 2013—up 41 percent from the first 11 months of 2012. And there’s much more room for car sales to accelerate. In part due to the rising number of cars on Mexico’s roads, the ministry of energy forecasts that consumption of transport fuel will reach an average 3.8 percent CAGR until 2026, when demand will be 69 percent higher than it is today. That will require significant new capacity and investment in gasoline refining, distribution, and sales.

The reforms completely open up downstream activities. This makes all logistics activities available to private parties and allows Mexican and foreign private investors to enter the retail market with the freedom to use different brands. Under the new constitutional regime, it is expected that the Pemex franchise exclusivity will be phased out, allowing companies to integrate all downstream activities, from trading to the gasoline pump.

It has not yet been determined what market structure the government will create for refined products. In 2013, the government spent $6.9 billion on gasoline subsidies, resulting in unleaded gas prices of 93 cents per liter. (The government expects to reduce the subsidy on gasoline for 2014 to $2.7 billion.) Should the government decide immediately to stop subsidizing gas prices, prices will increase and the resulting competition in retail should quickly improve the state of logistics infrastructure and gas stations in Mexico. The secondary laws and regulations will shed more light on these issues in the coming months.

The Natural-Gas Sector: Challenges and Opportunities

Since 2000, natural-gas demand has risen at an annual rate of 5.6 percent. But because Pemex has continued to prioritize oil production, production of natural gas has not kept pace. (See Exhibit 3.) In fact, since 2008, natural-gas production has fallen at an annual rate of 2.3 percent. As a result, Mexico relies on imports to supply about half of total natural-gas consumption. The country plans to boost natural-gas production from 5.7 billion cubic feet per day to 8.0 billion in 2018 and 10.4 billion by 2025—an increase of 82 percent. That will require significant new investment in gas exploration and production.

Unlike downstream oil activities, natural-gas logistics and distribution have been open to private investment for nearly 20 years—since 1995. Private companies can operate and own gas pipelines in Mexico under three different permit terms: self-usage, joint venture self-usage, and open-access transport. As of May 2012, there were 235 active pipeline permits, the majority of which fall under the self-usage category. Since distribution was opened to private investors in 1995, 21 permits for gas distribution have been granted. Currently, two European companies, Gas Natural Fenosa and GDF Suez, control 80 percent of the gas distribution market.

While reforms have started, downstream gas activities face their own set of challenges. As with refined-oil products, rapid growth in demand is outpacing capacity by a wide margin. In Mexico, there has been a shift toward greater use of the cheap, cleaner-burning natural gas that is being produced in greater volumes across the border to the north. From 1995 to 2013, natural-gas demand more than doubled. But in the same period, the natural-gas-pipeline system grew by only 19 percent. This imbalance has caused the system to reach saturation on several occasions. Since November 2012, when the maximum capacity was first exceeded, Pemex has issued 35 critical alerts, which result in pauses of imports through the gas pipeline grid and limit the national supply of gas. These alerts and shutdowns have often forced the power sector to use more expensive and dirtier fuels. The estimated losses due to the limitations of the pipeline grid were $1.4 billion in 2012 alone.

The pipeline system is simply unprepared to meet the planned rise in domestic-gas production. Energy reform is projected to raise natural-gas production by 3.8 percent per year through 2025, while natural-gas demand should rise by 3.9 percent per year over the same period. Mexico has vast shale-gas resources that are primed for exploration and production. Half of them are located in the north of Mexico, including in areas where no transport infrastructure currently exists. The pipeline system located near the largest shale formations already operates at 90 percent of capacity.

At present, Mexico has no underground natural-gas storage facilities. So even if its pipeline system were more functional, it would still have difficulty meeting demand at peak times. While other countries use mature fields, aquifers, and saline domes to store natural gas, Mexico has liquefied-natural-gas storage capacity equivalent to only 2.4 days. By contrast, the average storage capacity for OECD countries is 83 days.

As part of the reform, Pemex must transfer all its natural-gas pipelines to a new government entity, to be created in 2014. The structure and final format of this entity are works in progress. But there is both room and need for more capacity. After reforms have taken place, growth in production and demand should attract international companies to Mexico’s midstream and downstream natural-gas activities.

Reforming the Power Sector

Oil and gas are not the sole focus of energy reform. The power sector is primed for significant change as well. Since 1960, CFE, the state-owned power agency, has maintained exclusive control over generation, transmission, distribution, supply, and retail. Since a 1992 reform allowed private participation in generation, many companies have taken advantage of the independent-power-producer scheme. The program allows private entities to receive permits to build plants as long as they establish long-term power-purchase agreements with CFE. Independent power producers now account for about 20 percent of Mexico’s 62 gigawatt generation capacity. Others have entered the market through joint ventures with large private consumers for self-supply or for cogeneration facilities that supply such consumers and sell surplus power to CFE. Outside of self-supply contracts, CFE remains the exclusive purchaser of private generation output.

Mexico has an inefficient power-generation system in large part because of regulatory rigidities. New entrants are limited by CFE’s central role in managing new capacity additions, in setting the conditions for access to the grid, and in defining all contracts above 30 megawatts of capacity. CFE is often reluctant to approve applications for self-supply or cogeneration systems, since it would mean a loss of industrial-market share. Restrictions on surplus energy sales limit the attractiveness of the independent-power-producer model.

As demand has continued to grow, capacity has not been able to keep up. From 2004 to 2011, Mexico’s electricity-reserve margins fell from 41 percent to 32 percent—perilously close to the system minimum threshold of 27 percent. Additionally, the substitution of combined gas plants for expensive traditional fossil-fuel plants has slowed significantly in the past four years. From 1999 to 2008, gas-powered capacity grew at a 24 percent annual rate. But from 2008 to 2012, such capacity grew at only 3 percent. Meanwhile, traditional fossil generation, which fell at a CAGR of 7 percent from 1999 to 2008, rose at a CAGR of 7 percent from 2008 to 2012. Given that traditional fossil-power generation is almost twice as expensive as gas turbines, this is placing a burden on systemwide generation costs.

The most recent federal energy strategy reiterated Mexico’s 2008 goal of cutting fossil fuel generation from 82 percent of the total generation mix to 65 percent by 2024. But at present, nonfossil generation accounts for only 18 percent of total generation, which is significantly lower than the 31 percent OECD average, and much lower than the 58 percent average among the 15 largest Latin American economies.

The transmission and distribution networks controlled by CFE are insufficient, old, and outdated. The growth rate of the grid, at 1.8 percent since 2004, is well below that of demand, which has risen at an annual rate of 3 percent since 2004. Almost half the substations and close to 30 percent of CFE’s transmission lines are past their useful life spans (26 and 30 years, respectively). Because of CFE’s budgetary, regulatory, and project-execution limitations, transmission and distribution have become major bottlenecks for new generation, including for the addition of renewable capacity, in several regions.

The network is also highly inefficient; it has the highest distribution losses among OECD countries. At 20.8 percent, nearly twice the rate reported in 1994, the losses are 2.9 times the OECD average. (See Exhibit 4.) According to the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey, Mexico ranks the lowest in perceived quality and reliability of electricity supply among OECD countries—24 percent lower than the OECD average.

The retail sector has not fared well, either. Electricity tariffs have risen sharply over the past few years, with industrial customers bearing the brunt of the increases. Industrial customers pay electricity rates that are 70 percent higher than those in the U.S., which places a heavy burden on the competitiveness of Mexico’s industry. Additionally, heavy government subsidies account for more than 60 percent of the cost of electricity for residential and agricultural customers in Mexico. Because CFE absorbs these subsidies, it reported net losses from 2010 to 2013.

Opportunities in Power

In postreform Mexico, CFE will still own and operate the national transmission and distribution network, but it will no longer handle generation, transmission, and distribution—private investors will be able to participate in those areas as well as in limited retail activities—and the wholesale power market. The reforms aim to create a single free market for power generation and to remove the regulatory rigidities of the current system. SENER, Mexico’s energy department, will establish a new legal regime that will ensure open access to the power market and grid, and CENACE, a new independent government entity that serves as the national energy control center, will handle energy dispatch in the market based on cost minimization and will guarantee open access to the national grid. CRE, the energy regulatory commission, will monitor quality and oversee generation permitting and system rules compliance. The constitutional reform stipulates that private generation will now be possible for all types and sizes of projects in Mexico. Permitting and regulatory frameworks will be defined in the secondary laws.

In the new regulatory environment, private companies will be allowed equal access to generation permits—without the limitation of complicated CFE-approved permitting. Additionally, private players will be able to contract with CFE to build, finance, and operate transmission and distribution networks. Although CFE will retain sole responsibility for the retail delivery of power to consumers, private companies will be able to sell energy directly to qualified consumers—that is, those whose consumption exceeds a yet-to-be-specified threshold to be set by SENER. Over the course of 2014, the Mexican congress will make rules determining whether retail will remain the sole domain of CFE.

SENER forecasts that Mexico, which currently has the lowest electricity consumption per capita in the OECD, will require a massive increase in generation capacity. Through 2026, electricity demand is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 4.7 percent, with the commercial sector growing faster, at 6 percent. To compensate for rising demand and planned retirements of outdated plants, Mexico needs an additional 37.5 gigawatts of capacity by 2026, a 62 percent increase from the current level of 62 gigawatts. That will require an estimated investment of $57 billion. Furthermore, the grid will require an additional $36 billion in transmission and distribution investment over the same period.

Given the abundant supplies of natural gas and Mexico’s need to replace its expensive traditional fossil-fuel plants, there is ample opportunity for private investment in generation. With many independent power producers already present in Latin America and the U.S., the power sector, much like oil and gas, will have a lot of appeal for private investors in the coming years.

An Attractive New Market

Mexico’s comprehensive energy reforms seek to remedy the challenges facing the country’s energy sector, both in oil and gas and in power, and also to create a more attractive landscape for foreign direct investment. In the process, significant opportunities are opening up. The reforms that have been laid out have the potential to address systemic problems in struggling industries, and they have the potential to ignite rapid growth—not just in the energy sector but in energy-dependent industrial sectors as well. In short, these reforms could go a long way toward modernizing Mexico’s economy.

There are still many steps required before private companies, both foreign and domestic, can begin entering the market. Over the next 12 months, new rules will be laid down. In the first half of 2014, the Mexican congress is expected to discuss and vote on the secondary laws detailing specific contracting rules and payment methodologies. Several additional decrees are also expected this year on issues such as pricing and market rules. New regulatory institutions will be created and existing ones will be strengthened. By September, SENER and the Comisión Nacional de Hidrocarburos—an independent body that supports SENER in implementing energy policies—must announce their decisions on all of Pemex’s first-round bids on new exploration areas. By December, the Mexican congress must approve the modified legal framework for environmental regulation and establish a plan for transitioning to clean energy. By April 2015, the executive branch is slated to create both the National Control Center for Natural Gas and the National Control Center for Energy. And by December 2015, both PEMEX and CFE must finalize their transition into independent businesses. That same year, we could see the first bidding round for exploration and production in oil and gas and the first licenses for downstream activity and power capacity expansion.

The commercial and economic impacts may not be fully evident until 2016. But the fact that the Mexican government approved the constitutional changes with such speed and efficiency shows how confident it is about the direction that the country’s energy sector is taking.

The window of opportunity is imminent. This “one time only” opening of the energy sector grants a first-mover advantage to those who can mobilize quickly. A familiarization with the new regulatory environment will be critical in developing successful strategies to make the most of this regulatory shift.


This report would not have been possible without the support of BCG’s Energy practice. The authors would especially like to thank Juan Gil, Federico Seyffert, Jan Contreras, and Alejandro Marin for their support and overall contribution to the development of this report. The authors would also like to thank Daniel Gross for his help with the writing of this report.

The Promise of Mexico’s Energy Reforms