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By KELIN DILLON

Mexico’s state-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) was reportedly handed the lucrative operation of the Zama megafield in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, July 2, the same day a burst Pemex pipeline caused a huge fireball in the ocean, which attracted attention and criticism worldwide.

Discovered in 2017 by private company Talos Energy, the Zama megafield is apparently one of the richest oil zones in the region, with potential resources of up to 1.2 million barrels of crude oil.

Mexico’s Secretariat of Energy (Sener), headed by Norma Rocío Nahle García, announced through a letter on July 2 that Pemex would collaborate with Talos Energy to develop the area, specifically through the Pemex Exploration and Production (PEP) division.

“Pemex has infrastructure for the reception, conditioning, storage, distribution and export of crude oil only 70 kilometers from the field at the Dos Bocas refinery,” said an unnamed expert in the letter.

Pemex will ultimately be given majority control of the project, with Sener designating 50.43 percent ownership of the area to the state-owned company and 49.57 percent to Talos Energy, despite the private company having already invested $300 million itself into the project.

However, Talos has experience operating rigs with depths of more than 168 meters, as would be necessary in the Zama megafield, while Pemex has not operated platforms beyond 115 meters before.

Now, the two companies have a month to create a joint plan to develop the area.

Notwithstanding, on Monday, July 5, Talos announced that it will be taking legal action to try to block the Sener ruling.

“After six years of significant investments in Zama and the Mexican economy, as well as the delivery of a Zama development plan that is credible and aligned with Mexico’s objectives, Talos is very disappointed with Sener’s sudden decision to grant the operation to Pemex,” the Houston-based company said in a statement.

The statement pointed out that it was Talos that drilled the exploratory well that led to the discovery of the Zama field in July 2017.

Later, Talos continued to invest in the appraisal of Zama and in the Mexican economy through the drilling of three additional wells as part of the field delimitation, the statement said.

“Talos has consistently demonstrated a relentless commitment to optimal field development, as the company has advanced a full front- end engineering and development study and submitted to Mexico’s National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH) a development plan that maximizes oil and gas recovery and value for the Mexican people,” it said.

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