Mexico finishing post-storm natural gas supply recovery

Author: Claudia Espinosa

2021/03/04

  • Pipeline imports recovery continues
  • Sistrangas linepack in Mexico down again
  • Third, fourth CFE LNG cargoes delivered
  • CRE approves rise in Cuxtal maximum operating capacity

Mexico’s pipeline natural gas imports have continued rising as industrial and power generation activity has resumed, but it is likely to take at least another week to reach pre-emergency levels where they are likely to hover heading into the start of spring.

US gas imports in the seven-day period to  2 March averaged 5.5 billion cubic feet (bcf)/day, according to data from US-based provider Criterion. The average is up from the 4.8bcf/day average in the week to 23 February but not yet at the 5.8bcf/day averaged in the two-week period to 11 February before the winter gas supply emergency limited exports.

LINEPACK

Mexico’s TSO CENAGAS published on 1 March a critical notice on its electronic bulletin board (EBB) signaling low linepack levels to users. Gas market participants said it seemed unclear why Sistrangas system conditions would have deteriorated to that degree given that pipeline imports had improved fairly quickly after the winter storm had passed. The notice was marked as valid until 4 March.

CENAGAS periodically posts this type of critical notice as it has struggled to maintain optimal linepack levels for more than two years, according to energy ministry data. Sources have previously said the modernisation of the Sistrangas’ metering system could improve the situation by providing better data on out-of-balance users. Energy regulator CRE previously instructed CENAGAS to craft a modernisation plan, but the results of that request were not made public.

LNG

Mexico’s state-run power utility CFE bought its most recent LNG cargo from Spanish utility Naturgy at around $8.25/MMBtu, said a Mexico-based source.

A separate market source, however, said the cargo was bought at $5.50-6.00/MMBtu.

The cargo arrived on the 138,000cbm Singapore Energy at the Altamira terminal on 24 February, according to LNG Edge. It was the third spot cargo purchase CFE made in February to deal with a lack of US natural gas supply.

CFE had decided not to buy a fourth cargo, which was already on its way on the 173,000cbm British Listener, as the country’s gas supply problems had already been solved, said the Mexico-based source.

However, the 173,000cbm BW Magnolia approached Mexico’s Manzanillo terminal on 3 March. Two sources said it represented the fourth spot cargo purchase by CFE in recent weeks and that a separate fifth cargo purchase had been cancelled.

The costs of these LNG purchases are eventually passed on to end users in Mexico.

MAYAKAN

The commissioners of energy regulator CRE approved the technical modification of Energia Mayakan’s natural gas transport permit in a 26 February meeting, according to CRE meeting minutes. The approval permits the company to increase the maximum operating capacity of the Cuxtal portion of the Mayakan pipeline system.

French major ENGIE closed an open season for Cuxtal and other parts of the Mayakan pipeline system and presented their results to CRE in January, according to open season documents. These could later provide signals about longer-term ramp up possibilities, but the tiny available capacity offered in the open season is immaterial for 2021. The terms of the open season indicate other system expansion projects included in the open season would become commercially operational in December 2023 if there was enough interest.

An ENGIE spokesman previously said the open season results would eventually be posted to the Mayakan EBB. The information was not yet available on the EBB as of 2 March.

An expansion to the Mayakan system would be key for supplying natural gas to two combined-cycle power plants for the Yucatan peninsula the federal administration announced last year as a part of a public-private infrastructure plan.

Claudia Espinosa