US natural gas exports to Mexico will more than double in 3 years -- from an average of 2 Bcf/d in 2013 to 4.5 Bcf/d in 2016, according to a report from Barclays Capital.
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The expected increase comes as natural gas demand in Mexico has been strong and is poised to accelerate further, driven by new power generation and industrial use, and enabled by "a massive expansion of the country's pipeline network," said the report, issued late Tuesday.
Eight major pipelines with a total capacity of 5.6 Bcf/d are scheduled to start operations within Mexico from 2013 to 2017, the report said. Several will deliver gas to areas currently lacking sufficient distribution infrastructure, and will spur new demand. Three of these pipelines will connect directly to the US pipeline grid, and are mirrored by US expansions.
Meanwhile, Mexico's domestic production of natural gas is in decline and any future growth is likely to be tepid at best, as state-owned oil company Pemex focuses capital spending on oil targets and shale gas reserves are slow to commercialize, Barclays said.
The report said US exports to Mexico will increase from an average of 2 Bcf/d in 2013, to 2.2 Bcf/d in 2014, to 3.5 Bcf/d in 2015 and to 4.5 Bcf/d in 2016.
Several analysts and consultant groups have said projections of demand growth in Mexico of about 3 Bcf/d in the next five years are expected to come to fruition, although there are areas of uncertainty, including how fast the Mexican economy will grow and how quickly new infrastructure would be built.
Mexican demand for gas is expected to increase by 2.7 Bcf/d by 2018, of which 1.4 Bcf/d will be for gas-fired generation, according to Platts unit Bentek Energy. Mexican demand last year stood at 8.1 Bcf/d, up from 5.9 Bcf/d in 2005.
To meet this demand, US pipeline export capacity to Mexico is expected to increase by 4.3 Bcf/d over the next five years, Bentek said. Meanwhile, a report by Goldman Sachs earlier this year put the jump in export capacity at 4.8 Bcf/d by 2015.
The Barclays report pointed to Mexico's state-owned Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE,) which has announced plans to grow gas-fired generation capacity by 24.5 GW from 2010 to 2025, which could bring an additional 3.9 Bcf/d of natural gas demand.
Currently, Mexico relies entirely on conventional gas production, but the country is home to large shale gas reserves. In its latest update to an assessment of 137 global shale formations, the US Energy Information Administration puts Mexico's technically recoverable shale gas resources at 545 Tcf.
While Pemex is advancing its understanding of Mexico's shale gas potential, it is devoting "only a small portion of its budget to these resources," Barclays said.
Pemex has a monopoly on natural gas exploration, and while private-sector participation is permitted in non-associated gas production, improved access and better fiscal terms would be needed for any significant involvement of private investors in the development of shale gas, the report said.
"As a result, a rapid commercialization is unlikely, in our view," Barclays said.