PEMEX'S two-billion dollar platform losses in recent years (Nohoch Alfa in 2023 and Abkatún Alfa in 2015) point to a faulty safety regime and a lack of engagement with U.S. and European safety authorities.
Such accidents represent failures of leadership, procedures (recruitment, training, maintenance, supervision), regulation, and public oversight.
The billion-dollar fire that consumed a Pemex platform on July 7, 2023 should be a warning.
Offshore safety in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), which is shared by Cuba, Mexico and the United States, lacks coordination and a common framework for training, evaluation, and risk mitigation.
Data made available to the public is misleading or non-existent. In the United States, authorities publish statistics on safety incidents in oilfield operations in federal waters, but not specifically for those in the GOM. Data on safety incidents in waters of state jurisdiction, if published at all, are not aggregated with federal data to give a comprehensive picture.
On Mexico’s side, Pemex publishes data on safety incidents measured by frequency and gravity scaled to the number of hours in “at risk” operations. As the total number of such hours is not published, the reader cannot discern if the rate of safety incidents is increasing or decreasing from one reporting period to the next.
Worse, Pemex’s safety data is aggregated. There is no separate reporting for offshore accidents. As for the safety performance of private operators, there seems to be no obligation to report them to the public. The hydrocarbon safety agency (ASEA), created in 2014, has a minuscule budget and staff. It has earned the nickname “PowerPoint Safety Agency.”
In Houston, the Center for Offshore Safety (COS), founded soon after the Macondo mega-oil spill by the American Petroleum Institute (API) to calm public anxiety. Since then, it has promoted safety dialogues between GOM operators, contractors, and regulators. What it hasn’t done is engage with Mexico. “Our mission stops at the U.S.-Mexico maritime boundary,” COS director Russell Holms told us. Several years ago, expressive of their U.S. GOM focus, API and COS discontinued their subscription to Mexico Energy Intelligence™.
These facts and considerations come together in a worrisome outlook for GOM offshore safety.
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