an opinion editorial written exclusively for ANZMEX 

17 July 2023
By Chris Sladen

Energy matters – Mexico: A decade of change?

Mexico was, is and always will be an energy powerhouse. But how best to describe energy over the last decade? Was it a decade of change? Or perhaps not?

We could talk about energy reform, energy sovereignty, bid rounds, new discoveries, changes in regulations, resource potential, power blackouts. We could talk about people, and politics and projects – I could then add some personal anecdotes on all those! But I thought it is better to give you the numbers, and you decide – what matters and what has really changed?

Here I give you Mexico’s numbers – straight, unwashed, unedited, no spin, no gloss and simply state the key energy facts. To help me with this, I have largely used the data sets just published by the Energy Institute. Known as the 73rd edition of the Statistical Review of World Energy, it is the best global compilation of data going back decades, and used by the energy sector worldwide. 

For straight comparison, I have focussed on Mexico’s production and consumption numbers from 2012 and 2022. This enables you to see changes over the decade. And I give a brief comparison of Mexico’s numbers to other countries in Latin America & the Caribbean to highlight what changed in the region. (On occasion I have made minor mathematical rounding of numbers, simply to make for easier reading).

Oil production, consumption and exports (million barrels per day, mm b/d)

Oil production in 2012 was 2.91 mm b/d but by 2022 it was down to 1.94 mm b/d. (Note: This includes all crude oil, condensates & natural gas liquids). It is a substantial fall in production, down 33%.

In 2012, Mexico held the position of no.1 oil producer in Latin America & Caribbean, with Venezuela second placed. However, by 2022, Brazil was the largest oil producer (3.11 mm b/d) and Mexico was second.

Oil consumption in 2012 was 2.23 mm b/d, and in 2022 this had changed little at 2.10 mm b/d (down 6%). Even so, during this period, Mexico’s population increased by 11.7 million, up from 115.8 to 127.5 million people (up 10%), so it is a noteworthy fall in consumption. In the region in 2012, Mexico was second largest oil consumer behind Brazil and this remained the case in 2022.

In 2012, Mexico exported 1.37 mm b/d and in 2022 export was 1.17 mm b/d, a fall of 0.2 mm b/d (down 15%). In 2012, almost all oil exports went to the USA (75%) and Europe (13%). By 2022, most exports still went to the USA (64%), with Europe important (12%), and India (10%) now a notable destination.

Natural gas production, consumption and gas imports (billion cubic meters per year, bcm/y)

In 2012, natural gas production was 50.9 bcm/y, but by 2022 this was down significantly to 40.4 bcm/y (down 21%). (Note: these numbers exclude gas flaring; see later for this data).

In 2012, Mexico was the largest natural gas producer in the region, ahead of Trinidad and Tobago. By 2022, Argentina had become the largest producer, ahead of Mexico.

In 2012, natural gas consumption was 73.7 bcm/y and this increased significantly to 96.6 bcm/y in 2022 (up 31%). In 2012, Mexico was the largest natural gas consumer in the region with Argentina second; this remained the case in 2022.

Over the decade, Mexico’s gas imports by pipeline from the USA surged. In 2012, pipeline import was 17.6 bcm/y and in 2022 was 56.5 bcm/y (up 221%). By 2022, Mexico had become by far the largest importer in the region. Over half of Mexico’s natural gas consumption in 2022 was US imports. LNG imports were down from 4.9 bcm/y in 2012 to 0.6 bcm/y, in 2022, mostly coming from Indonesia (0.4 bcm/y). 

Gas flaring (billion cubic meters per year, bcm/y) and CO2 emissions (million tonnes CO2 equivalent per year, mT/y)

In 2012, natural gas flaring was 1.4 bcm/y. In 2022 this had significantly increased at 6.8 bcm/y (386%). Mexico’s gas flaring in 2022 was equivalent to 14% of its total natural gas production. In 2012, Mexico was roughly tied in second place with Brazil for flaring, with Venezuela far out in front. By 2022, Venezuela albeit now reduced still led the region in gas flaring, with Mexico now a close second. Argentina was a distant third at 1.2 bcm/y. 

In 2012, Mexico’s CO2 emissions were 567 mT/y and in 2022 were a little higher at 577 mT/y (up <2%). (Note: these are carbon dioxide equivalent emissions representing all emissions from use of products, flaring and methane).

In 2012, Mexico was the highest emitter in the region, followed by Brazil. This was still the case in 2022, although the gap between the two had widened from 53 mT/y to 71 mT/y.

Refinery throughput, fuel imports and exports (million barrels per day, mm b/d)

Mexico’s refinery capacity in 2012 was 1.61 mm b/d whilst throughput was 1.20 mm b/d (75% utilisation). In 2022, capacity had slipped a little to 1.56 mm b/d, however refinery throughput had fallen to 0.82 mm b/d, and utilisation was down to 53%. In 2012, refinery throughput was second to Brazil and this remained the case in 2022.

In 2012, Mexico had no notable crude oil imports but imported 0.59 mm b/d refined products (mostly fuels) and exported a minor amount of products, 0.07 mm b/d. By 2022, there was still insignificant crude imports, however Mexico imported 1.25 mm b/d refined products (up 112%), a very significant rise. Mexico also became a more significant product exporter albeit still small overall at 0.18mm b/d (up 157%).

Coal production, consumption and export (million tonnes per year, mT/y or exajoules per year, eJ/y)

In 2012, Mexico produced 15.2 mT/y (0.31 eJ/y) of coal, and by 2022 it was down 64% to 5.5 mT/y (0.14 eJ/y).

Colombia has been, and is, the region’s long-time dominant coal producer. In 2012, Mexico was a distant second producer, and by 2022, Brazil’s coal production had overtaken Mexico’s falling output.

Coal consumption in 2012 was 0.54 eJ/y, but by 2022 this had fallen to 0.25 eJ/y. Mexico continued to be a minor coal importer to meet its total requirements.

Brazil led coal consumption in the region in 2012 followed by Mexico; this was unchanged in 2022. Colombia continued to be the region’s main coal exporter, sending around half its production to Europe and most of the remainder to nearby countries in the region.

Solar power capacity (Megawatts, MW)

Installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in 2012 was 73 MW and by 2022 was 9,026 MW – more than two orders of magnitude growth (12,268%).

In 2012, Mexico dominated PV capacity in the region. It was however a decade of strong growth in many countries. Despite Mexico’s orders of magnitude growth, by 2022, Mexico was a distant second behind Brazil with 24,079 MW of capacity, but ahead of Chile in 3rd place with 6,250 MW.

Wind power capacity (Megawatts, MW)

Installed wind power was 1,815 MW in 2012 and this had expanded very significantly to 7,312 MW in 2022 (up 303%). In 2012, Mexico had much more wind capacity installed than solar; by 2022 the situation had switched with solar having more installed capacity than wind.

In the region, Mexico was a close second in wind capacity to Brazil in 2012. However, a decade later, it was a distant second with Brazil at 24,136 MW.

Hydro power (exajoules per year, eJ/y)

Hydro power consumption was 0.3 eJ/y in 2012 and 0.3 eJ/y in 2022 (so, no significant change). Brazil remained the standout user of hydro (~4 eJ), a long way ahead of Venezuela and Colombia.

Nuclear power (exajoules per year, eJ/y)

Nuclear power consumption was overall very small at 0.08 eJ/y in 2012 and 0.10 eJ/y in 2022. Throughout the decade, Brazil led nuclear power production followed by Mexico then Argentina. The remainder of Latin America & Caribbean is without nuclear power capacity.

Taken together, Mexico now has over 16,000 MW of solar & wind capacity, and this already exceeds the combined total of other low carbon power – nuclear (1,620 MW), hydro (12,614 MW) and geothermal (1,059 MW).

To summarise
Here are some energy one-liners covering the last 10 years in Mexico, maybe worth remembering:

– oil production was down significantly

– oil consumption fell slightly, despite considerable population growth

– oil exports remained significant, albeit lower

– natural gas production was down significantly

– natural gas consumption increased significantly

– natural gas imports by pipeline from USA surged

– refinery throughput and utilisation fell significantly

– refined product imports (fuels) grew dramatically 

– solar power capacity grew by orders of magnitude

– wind power advanced dramatically

– solar power capacity now exceeds wind capacity

– coal, nuclear, hydro & geothermal add to Mexico’s energy diversity but their overall contributions remain small

– throughout the decade, Mexico was an energy powerhouse in the region

– many aspects of the energy sector changed, both supply & demand

– even so, Mexico remains a major location for both hydrocarbon production, processing and consumption

– Mexico is a leading country in the region for installing solar and wind

– overall, Mexico’s total emissions have gone up only very little

– there has been a very significant increase in gas flaring

From this data, we can envisage that Mexico’s energy transition and decarbonisation (moving away from hydrocarbons) will be in the spotlight for decades to come.

About the author:

Chris Sladen runs an advisory service offering insights to inform, shape a decision, policy & regulation, and guide the next steps for energy ventures, acquisitions & divestments, energy transition and climate strategies. Chris has a unique global experience having worked in over 40 countries. This is underpinned by extensive knowledge of petroleum systems and where best to find oil and gas, notably in the Gulf of Mexico & nearby areas, Europe and NE & SE Asia, as well as the development of midstream, downstream & renewables investments in many emerging economies. Chris has extensive experience acquired on the Boards of companies, subsidiaries, business chambers & organisations. Chris has a career of over 40 years in the energy sector, living in Mexico (2001-2018), Russia, Vietnam, Mongolia, China & UK. His contributions to the energy and education sectors have been recognised by the UK Government with both an MBE and CBE, and also the Aztec Eagle from the Mexican Government – the first foreigner in the energy sector to achieve this award. Chris has published extensively over five decades. Chris’ articles for Energy Matters reflect his experience and enthusiasm and are not paid for in any way.

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