By RICARDO CASTILLO
It came as no surprise to on Thursday, May 9, when Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) declared the bidding for the construction of the new Dos Bocas refinery on the Gulf of Mexico shoreline in the state of Tabasco a deserted tender.
Instead, AMLO said in his daily press conference at the National Palace, that rather than outsourcing the construction of the new refinery, “it is going to be built under the coordination, administration and supervision of Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and the Energy Secretariat.”
AMLO groused that the four contenders for the project “were asking for too much money, leapfrogging over the $8 billion limit set by the government, as well as on construction time limits.”
Under his new “Plan B” scheme, AMLO added, “we will create 100,000 new jobs in the construction industry, and the refinery will be finished by May 2022.” Construction is slated to begin on June 2 under the care and supervision of Energy Secretary Rocío Nahle García, who will be moving — along with the Energy Secretariat headquarters — to Tabasco’s capital city of Villahermosa.
During AMLO’s press conference, Nahle pointed out that the four participating companies in the “by-invitation-only” tender announced on March 18 – National Oil Day in Mexico – failed because “of noncompliance of the established basis for their participation.” The decision to dispense with the companies was made near midnight pm May 8.
The participating international refinery construction companies were Argentine-Italian Technit, the U.S.-based Bechtel Corporation, Australian Worley Parsons and the French-American joint venture of Technip-KBR Corporations.
Nahle, a petrochemical engineer, pointed out that she will now be at the helm of the new project. “As chairwoman of the board at Pemex and the energy producing state of the government, I have the authority to coordinate and promote the project of the construction of the refinery at Dos Bocas,” she said, “as well as to establish the technical guidelines in contracting procedures and to guarantee that the goals of timing, cost and quality be kept.”
Nahle said that the goals are to have the refinery operating within three years, to keep within the AMLO administration’s $8 billion budget, and to comply with international standards of quality and energy efficiency.
“We’ll kick off next June 2 with the conditioning of the site and engineering details,” she said.
Nahle has worked as an oil engineer at Pemex for many years and is a seasoned politician who was elected federal deputy for the Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, district, where she worked at the local refinery. She is also a member of the Pemex Revolution 1917 Oil Engineers Group.
The main reason that the switch to AMLO’s Plan B came as no surprise is that ever since the invitation was extended to the four international companies, the Mexican press has meticulously reviewed each of the four. All of them were reported to have allegedly participated in corruption wherever they had built refineries, including during previous contracts with Pemex, where they allegedly bribed officials to obtain contracts.
Also, their construction budgets ran too high – one presented a $25 billion proposal – making their offers unattractive to the Mexican government.
But now that the chips are down for the refinery construction project, definitely the eyes of the world’s other oil companies will be squarely focused on Dos Bocas. After all, Pemex, which will be in charge of the engineering of the refinery, is considered one of the most inefficient companies on Earth.
For now, it will also come as no surprise if most Mexicans take the announcement of this new endeavor with a grain of salt.