US and Mexico sign agreement for development of transboundary oil and gas resources in Gulf of Mexico; access to nearly 1.5M acres of US Outer Continental Shelf
The US and Mexico have signed an agreement on the exploration and development of oil and natural gas reservoirs along the United States’ and Mexico’s maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mexico. As a result of this Transboundary Agreement—which Presidents Obama and Calderon had committed in 2010 to reaching—nearly 1.5 million acres of the US Outer Continental Shelf could be made more accessible for exploration and production activities.
|The US-Mexico maritime boundary (and Western Gap) in the Gulf of Mexico. Source: Richard McLaughlin.Click to enlarge.|
Estimates by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) indicate this area contains as much as 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
|The Western Gap|
|The US and Mexico signed a maritime boundary treaty in 1978 (which entered into force in 1997) establishing boundaries extending from the 12-mile limit to the 200-mile limit in the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. However, the two boundary segments in the Gulf of Mexico created both an Eastern and a Western Gap in areas beyond 200 miles from the respective coasts.|
|The total area of the Western gap is approximately 5,092 square nautical miles (17,467 square kilometers), an area slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey. The treaty boundary divides the western gap continental shelf in such a way that the US receives 1,913 square nautical miles (6,562 square kilometers, or 38% of the total) and Mexico receives 3,179 square nautical miles (10,905 square kilometers, or 62% of the total.|
|Subsequent to the 2010 Joint Statement by Presidents Obama and Calderon, both governments had agreed to extend a moratorium on drilling and exploitation in the Western Gap. The moratorium, which was set to expire in January 2011, as per the Western Gap Treaty, was extended until January 2014 without prejudice to any further extension.|
The Transboundary Agreement, which must be approved by the legislatures in each country, establishes a framework for US offshore oil and gas companies and Mexico’s Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) to develop jointly transboundary reservoirs. The agreement also opens up resources in the Western Gap that were off limits to both countries under a previous treaty that imposed a moratorium along the boundary through 2014.
The Obama Administration is committed to the responsible expansion of domestic energy production. This agreement makes available promising areas in the resource-rich Gulf of Mexico and establishes a clear process by which both governments can provide the necessary oversight to ensure exploration and development activities are conducted safely.—US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
The Transboundary Agreement sets clear guidelines for the development of oil and natural gas reservoirs that cross the maritime boundary. Under the Agreement US companies and PEMEX will be able to voluntarily enter into agreements to develop jointly those reservoirs. In the event that consensus cannot be reached, the Transboundary Agreement establishes the process through which US companies and PEMEX can individually develop the resources on each side of the border while protecting each nation’s interests and resources.
The Transboundary Agreement also provides for joint inspection teams from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Mexican Government to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Relevant agencies on both sides of the boundary will review all plans for the development of transboundary reservoirs, and additional requirements may be set before development activities are allowed to begin.
Western Gap and Transboundary Resources in the Ultra-Deepwaters of the Gulf of Mexico (Richard J. McLaughlin, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi)