This week, we begin a four-part guest series on hydraulic fracturing in Mexico written by Frontera NorteSur, Center for Latin American and Border Studies, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico. We thank the Center for permission to publish their work.
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Mexico is emerging as the next big battleground in conflicts over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as the method of extracting natural gas is commonly known.
While Mexican lawmakers consider regulatory legislation to put into practice the 2013 energy reform that opened up their county’s oil and gas reserves to private investors, anti-fracking forces are mobilizing for a moratorium or an outright ban of the controversial practice from the Mexican Congress.
“There are many warning signs around the world about this predatory practice in the environment and on health,” said Mexican Senator Rabindranath Salazar Solorio, a member of the center-left PRD party and secretary of the Senate’s energy commission. “It’s for this reason that Mexico should reflect and not commit the same errors to the detriment of the population.”
Mexican environmentalists cite many reasons to forget fracking: the depletion of scarce water resources; the potential contamination of aquifers; the usage of toxic chemicals, including substances identified as carcinogens, mutagens and endocrine disruption agents; the generation of toxic waste; and a growing body of evidence linking earthquakes to fracking.
Prohibited in some localities around the world, the fracking technique blasts millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into underground shale deposits in order to break up the rock formations and release gas.
Seeing mammoth dollar signs, fracking boosters like Chihuahua Governor Cesar Duarte maintain that developing shale gas reserves will ring in an unprecedented bonanza of billions of greenbacks and benefit economic and social development.
“The ecological effects as well as the economic and social ones don’t have to be negative. Why would we want an industry to come that impacts us?” Duarte was recently quoted. “On the contrary, this is an opportunity for Chihuahua that was not on the horizon, to turn us into a state with energy potential.”
Lately, the Chihuahua governor has been a busy man selling his state’s energy profile. He’s discussed the matter with the director of Mexico’s national oil company, Pemex, addressed thousands of businessmen at a Washington, D.C. conference and met with unnamed European investors. And Duarte is far from alone among Mexican political and business leaders poised to plunge into the shale gas market.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Mexico places number six in the world’s club of nations with recoverable shale gas resources, topped only by China, Argentina, Algeria, the United States, and Canada – in that order. Touted as the spark that will get Mexico’s economic engine roaring, the success of 2013 energy reform will largely depend on accessing shale and other hard-to-reach hydrocarbon reserves, such as deepwater oil.
The industry news site, Oilprice.com, reports that Mexico’s recoverable shale gas reserve is estimated at 600 trillion cubic feet. Additionally, the country is believed to possess 13 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil, making the Aztec Republic the 8th largest country in the world with such deposits.
Pemex has identified five main shale gas regions for possible exploitation, extending from parts of Hidalgo, Veracruz and Puebla states in the center and south of the country to the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Chihuahua in the northern border region, roughly the same zone Mexican political analyst Victor Quintana calls “Zeta Land,” in reference to the influence of the Zetas organized crime group.
Mexican and international press reports indicate that 20,000-plus fracking wells could be on the drawing board. Pemex has already drilled at least 19 experimental shale gas wells in the Nuevo Leon-Tamaulipas borderlands, with other exploratory grounds near Nuevo Laredo and another zone to the south.
Reportedly, Halliburton and Schlumberger have commenced drilling wells in nine municipalities of Nuevo Leon. Gustavo Hernandez, Pemez’s chief for exploration and production, said wells located in the Burgos Basin and other areas should receive $800 million in investments within the next year.
Inter-Press Service, June 28, 2014. Article by Emilio Godoy. Oilprice.com, June 20, 2014. Article by James Burgess. Norte, April 11, 2014; May 1 and 2, 2014. Articles by Felix Gonzalez and Claudia Sanchez. Lapolaka.com, April 13, 2014; May 19, 2014; June 12 and 17, 2014; July 1, 2014. Semanario, April 1, 2014. Article by Emilio Godoy/IPS. La Jornada, March 15 and 23, 2014; May 15, 2015. June 7, 14, 17, 25, 30, 2014; July 3 and 4, 2014. Articles by San Juana Martinez, John Saxe-Fernandez, Andrea Becerril. Erick Muniz, Arturo Sanchez Jimenez, Miroslava Breach, Victor Quintana, Reuters, Associated Press. El Diario de Juarez, March 15 and April 4, 2014. Articles by Patricia Mayorga Ordonez and editorial staff. Commondreams.org, December 17, 2013. Sarah Lazare. April 11, 15 and 23, 2014; June 6, 2014. Articles by Jacob Chamberlain, Lauren McCauley and Jon Queally. Arrobajaurez.com, March 16, 2014. El Heraldo de Chihuahua, March 16, 2014.