CNOOC shows commitment to Mexican deepwater area

Bnamericas Published: Monday, June 22, 2020
CNOOC shows commitment to Mexican deepwater area

Chinese national oil company CNOOC recently won approval from Mexico’s hydrocarbons regulator CNH for another expensive deepwater exploratory well, the second such well slated for spudding this year off the coast of Tamaulipas state.

CNOOC was awarded the 1,876km2 area in round 1.4 in 2016. It will drill Xakpún-1EXP in a new field.

Source: CNH 

“The [geological] provinces are the Cinturón Plegado Perdido and the Cuenca Salina del Bravo,” CNH technical advisor Ricardo Basurto said. The well site “is very close to the limit between them.” 

CNOOC will begin drilling in waters 1,369m deep, aiming for a Paleocene-Eocene play in the sandy Wilcox formation at depths of 5,243-5,904m. Total depth will be 6,125-6,346m below the surface. 

“This geological objective will meet with high-pressure conditions that can reach 13,735psi,” Basurto said.   

CNOOC first presented the plan on March 24, as part of the CNH-R01-L04-A4.CPP/2016 license, amid the oil price crash. 

Drilling the well in a ‘J’ trajectory, CNOOC forecasts it will find light oil of 38-43° API.

The operator estimates Xakpún could contain 993Mboe (million barrels of oil equivalent), with a  geological chance of success of 42%.

To drill the well, CNOOC will use the R-class ultra-deepwater drillship Rowan Renaissance, capable of operating at depths of 3,657m and drilling to total depths of 12,000m.

It is a high potential region, but one that has frustrated operators

Off to the north-northwest, in years’ past Pemex drilled some unproductive wells in the Cintúron Plegado Perdido. Earlier this year, Total and ExxonMobil relinquished a nearby 3,000km2 block, also in the Cinturón Plegado Perdido, back to CNH. 

Should CNOOC find oil, it promises to be a gamechanger

“I think that above all, the south of the Perdido area has not been successfully tested given all the plays,” CNH commissioner Alma América Porres said. “In this case, I think they can open the aperture to all of the south of the Perdido area.”


CNOOC expects to spend US$96.2mn on Xakpún-1EXP, US$88.8mn on drilling and US$7.4mn on termination. 

“The cost tells us of the technical difficulty,” CNH commissioner Néstor Martínez said.  

Note: Engineering challenges related to well design, salt formations and depths will drive total costs of Xakpún-1 toward US$100mn. Source: CNH

It will be CNOOC’s second deepwater well in Mexico, showing the firm’s continued commitment despite a global capex cut of 11% for 2020, announced in April.

Based on an earlier CNH authorization, part of license assignment CNH-R01-L04-A1.CPP/2016, the operator is currently drilling the Ameyali-1EXP well. 

The well is in waters 1,737m deep, with CNOOC expected to reach its objective at a total drilling depth of 6,146m. After a slight delay, drilling of the Amayeli well will extend to mid-July, with termination by July 24. 

Then the operator will turn to Xakpún. 

CNOOC expects to drill Xakpún from August 10 to October 27 and finish termination on November 5.

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