On December 15, 2015, Mexico conducted its third in a series of oil auctions in 2015, this time focusing on onshore fields with combined proven and probable reserves of about 49 million barrels of oil equivalent. Winning bids were awarded for all 25 open contracts located in mature fields that run along the Gulf Coast and include areas where Mexico’s oil industry began a century ago. Once developed, production in these fields is expected to reach 77,000 barrels per day and attract investment of US$1.1 billion. Forty bidders pre-qualified for the auction, with successful bids made by 14 different bidders. Winning bids ranged from 10.56 percent of pre-tax profits for the San Bernardo field won by Mexican firm Sarreal, to 85.69 percent for the Moloacan field won by a consortium led by the Netherlands’ Canamex Dutch, along with two Mexican firms.

In addition to being the first onshore auction, this auction was notable for the role that private Mexican oil and gas firms played. Unlike the earlier offshore auctions, where Mexican firms needed to partner with foreign companies because they lacked the experience required by the government to work in the more complicated offshore environment, many of the winning bidders in the December 15 auction have little or no experience and are backed by private capital. Among the Mexican firms wining contracts were a consortium led by Geo Estratos (four winning bids), start-up Strata Campos Maduros (three bids), Grupo Diavaz and Compania Petrolera Perseus. Concern has been raised that the desire to secure a bid by many of these start-ups may have resulted in bids that are not commercially viable, especially in a time of declining oil prices. However, this auction represents an important step in the diversification of the Mexican energy market and a move away from more than 80 years of monopoly control of oil and gas by state-run PEMEX.