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Mexico to test the use of UNFC to manage the social and environmental aspects of petroleum projects

Published: 04 July 2018

Mexico is one of the major petroleum producers in the western hemisphere. It has a long history of oil and gas production, yet a vast potential remains to be developed. The country has taken firm steps to bring some of its potential conventional and unconventional petroleum resources into production. A number of technical and economic challenges need to be overcome but social and environmental issues remain obstacles. To better understand and manage social and environmental aspects, Mexico has initiated a pilot project to apply the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) to selected petroleum projects as a prelude to broader adoption of the system nationally.

With the Energy Reform of 2013-2014, Mexico aims developing its petroleum resources more sustainably.  Mexico also aspires to be a role model in the application of international norms and standards in the petroleum sector that can contribute to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With expanded activity by a large number of players from different parts of the world, there is a need to assure that the best practices in social and environmental management are applied uniformly to all operating and new projects.

UNFC is a comprehensive resource management system that incorporates social and environmental aspects at its core, together with the criteria of economics, technical feasibility and consideration of uncertainties. As such a holistic view is not possible using other classification systems, the national petroleum regulator, the National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH), in collaboration with other stakeholders, has initiated a pilot project to test UNFC for the classification of projects in selected blocks where multiple challenges exist. A national workshop launching the project was organized on 18-21 June in Mexico City with the participation of over 120 national and international experts representing various institutions and operating companies.

“From the experience of the pilot test, we expect UNFC could be widely used in the future for the sustainable management of our petroleum resources”, said Mr. Juan Carlos Zepeda Molina, President of CNH. “Importantly, the pilot test has a strong focus on crosscutting activities that will provide an opportunity for institutions in Mexico to network and collaborate. Ultimately, we would also like to share our experience with other countries”.

“While technical and economic aspects of petroleum projects are important, the social and environmental issues can often be show-stoppers”, said Ms. Alma América Porres Luna, Commissioner, CNH. “In Mexico, this is especially a concern as the petroleum endowment is spread over onshore and offshore basins and contained in conventional sandstone reservoirs as well as unconventional shale formations”. Production of oil and gas from shale involves operations which could potentially damage water aquifers. Apart from water bodies, there are forested lands, rich archaeological sites, and urban and rural habitations in the areas where petroleum resources will be developed. Moreover, the rights of the indigenous population living in the project impacted areas will have to be respected

The pilot project intends to attempt the classification of a group of conventional and unconventional petroleum projects taking into account considerations related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Including the evaluation of the commercial, social and environmental aspects involved in the sustainable development of these types of resources will be important”, said Mr. Ulises Neri Flores, CNH. “The project will serve as the basis for the definition of an effective platform for decision making in Mexico”.

Mr. Harikrishan Tulsidas, UNECE secretariat, noted “UNFC has developed over many years as a comprehensive resource classification system. As the world moves to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we will develop a fully-fledged resource management tool incorporating UNFC that will allow countries to optimize their national natural resource endowments.”

Experts from diverse backgrounds including operations, regulations and policymaking came together to discuss specific issues related to selected projects and the benefits of applying UNFC. The workshop was organized by CNH, UNECE, Ministry of Energy of Mexico, National Agency for Safety, Energy and Environment (ASEA), and supported by UNDP, Mexico.

For more information, visit: http://unece.org/energy/se/reserves.html


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