How does Mexico’s water footprint compare to that of other countries?

 Books and resources  Comments Off on How does Mexico’s water footprint compare to that of other countries?
Oct 292014
 

In a previous post, we saw how Mexico is a major net importer of “virtual” water. In this post we take a closer look at Mexico’s water footprint. The data throughout this post come from The Water footprint of Mexico in the context of North America (pdf file).

Individual products each have their own water footprint in terms of the total amount of water involved in their production, processing and marketing. For example a single cup of coffee represents (on average) a water footprint of 140 liters. Other water footprints include:

  • A single letter-sized sheet of paper – 10 liters
  • Microchip – 32 liters
  • Pair of leather shoes – 8000 liters
  • Glass of milk 200 liters
  • Glass of wine 120 liters
  • Tomato 13 liters
  • Hamburger (150 gram) 2400 liters

From numbers like these, it is possible to calculate the water footprint for an individual consumer in a particular country, and also for an average consumer in each country.

How does the water footprint in Mexico compare to other countries?

The water footprint of Mexico (WWF 2012)

The water footprint of Mexico (WWF 2012)

The graphic shows that Mexico’s total water footprint (all consumers) is 197,425 Hm³, of which 92% is agricultural, 3% industrial and 5% domestic. Only 57% of Mexico’s water footprint is internal, the remaining 43% is external (ie water used in other countries to make or produce items imported into Mexico). The average water footprint per person in Mexico comes to 5419 liters/day (or 1978 m³/year).

The global average water footprint (all countries, all consumers) in 2010 was 1,385 m³/y. However, some countries have much higher average water footprint/persons than others. For example, the average consumer in the USA has a water footprint of 2,842 m³/y, whereas in China and India the average water footprints are 1,071 and 1,089 m³/y respectively.

The water footprint of an average consumer worldwide  is primarily determined by their consumption of cereal products (contributes 27% to the average water footprint), followed by meat (22%) and milk products (7%).

It should be remembered that countries which heavily rely on foreign water resources may have significant impacts on water consumption and pollution elsewhere.

Full report:

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Ecocide in Lake Cajititlan, Jalisco: massive fish death

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Ecocide in Lake Cajititlan, Jalisco: massive fish death
Sep 062014
 

Hundreds of thousands of dead fish have washed up on the shores of Lake Cajititlán in Jalisco in the past ten days.

Lake Cajititlán is about 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) long and 2 km wide. It is mid-way between the city of Guadalajara and Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest natural lake. Fortunately, Lake Cajititlán does not have an outlet, so water and fish from the lake can not enter other nearby streams or lakes.

Map of Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico

Map of Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico. Credit: Tony Burton; all rights reserved.

According to government officials, about 3 million dead popoche chub (Algansea popoche) with a combined weight of 82 metric tons were removed from Lake Cajititlán in the latest ecocide.

Initial reports contained conflicting versions of events, with local fishermen claiming far higher losses than government officials. The currently accepted figure of 82 metric tons suggests that the fishermen’s estimate was far closer to reality than the early “official” figures.

cajititlan-ecocide

(AFP Photo / Hector Guerrero)

Local authorities at first tried to persuade residents that the die-off was part of a “natural cycle”. However, this idea was quickly dispelled by state and federal agencies who are continuing investigations to establish the precise causes of the ecocide. Their preliminary technical studies have confirmed that the die-off of fish was due to contaminated water with dissolved oxygen levels well below the limits for a healthy fish population. The contamination appears to originate from raw sewage entering the lake and the inefficient operation of the existing sewage treatment plants.

Low oxygen levels could also result from seasonal rainy season runoff washing excess fertilizers into the lake, increasing the water’s nitrogen and phosphorus loads, promoting eutrophication.

State authorities have issued an environmental emergency alert for the lake, but have consistently maintained that the event has not endangered the health of local residents.

This is the fourth fish kill affecting Lake Cajititlán in 2014. This latest ecocide is only one of several ecological disasters that have befallen Mexico in recent weeks.

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Mexico’s “little sea cow” on the verge of extinction

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Aug 202014
 

Wildlife groups from around the world are urging the Mexican government to take urgent action to prevent the extinction of the “little sea cow”, the world’s smallest porpoise, known in Spanish as the vaquita marina, currently the most endangered cetacean in the world.

This particular porpoise is only found in the upper sections of the Sea of Cortés (Gulf of California), and fewer than 100 are thought to exist.

Scientists say that gill-net fishing must be eliminated in the little sea cow’s native habitat for its population to have any hope of recovering to a sustainable level. Mature females will usually only give birth to one calf every two years. Even with a total ban, it would therefore take several years for natural increase to boost the population. In the port of El Golfo de Santa Clara studies have suggested that gillnet fishing is responsible for approximately 39 vaquita deaths a year.

Map of sightings and acoustic detection spots. Adapted from North American Conservation Action Plan for the vaquita

Map of sightings and acoustic detection spots. Adapted from North American Conservation Action Plan for the vaquita

According to Jo Tuckman, writing in The Guardian, environmental groups blame the decline of the popoise population on a “booming illegal trade in the totoaba fish (mistakenly called “toboada” in The Guardian), driven by Chinese demand for its swim bladder, which is believed to have medicinal properties.” Chinese fishermen are alleged to have overfished a similar fish in their own waters, leading to a sharp increase in demand for imports of totoaba. Fishermen in the Sea of Cortés are reported to have been offered more than $4,000 for the single bladder (which weighs 500 grams) of a mature fish.

There have been numerous reported instances of illegal cross-border trade in totoaba bladders, including, Man Admits to Smuggling Swim Bladders of Endangered Fish. The fish has been listed as “endangered” since 1979 under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Between February and May 2013, border inspectors in Calexico, Arizona, seized the swim bladders of more than 500 endangered Totoaba.

In 2008, Mexico, the USA and Canada launched the North American Conservation Action Plan (NACAP) for the vaquita, under the jurisdiction of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), a NAFTA environmental organization. Mexico has also established a program known as PACE-VAQUITA, which compensates fishermen who choose one of three alternatives to commercial fishing: rent-out (payments to avoid fishing in specific areas which are known to have resident vaquitas), switch-out (compensation and inducement to switch technology to vaquita-safe methods), and buy-out (compensation for permanently relinquishing their fishing permits and gear).

Clearly, these efforts have not yet paid off and more stringent controls and enforcement are desperately needed if the vaquita marina is to be brought back from the brink of extinction.

Update (31 December 2014):

“The Mexican federal government has recently proposed a US $37 million compensation plan that would ban gillnet fishing in waters inhabited by the world’s most endangered mammal species.” (Mexico News Daily, 27 Dec 2014)

Want to read more?

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Goldcorp’s Los Filos mine in Guerrero: mega-mine or mega-disaster?

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Goldcorp’s Los Filos mine in Guerrero: mega-mine or mega-disaster?
Sep 282013
 

Canadian firm Goldcorp is the largest gold miner in Mexico, with mining concessions covering more than 40,000 hectares. Since 2008, it has been actively developing the mine of Los Filos, in the municipality of Eduardo Neri, which could become Latin America’s largest gold mine.

Los Filos is in Guerrero’s “Gold Belt” that runs from Mezcala to Argelia. The open-cast mine at Los Filos is midway between Mezcala and El Carrizalillo, some 50 km from the state capital Chilpancingo. The mining project will employ 800 workers and double the population of El Carrizalillo. The rocks here contain between 0.5 and 0.8 grams of gold per ton of ore. Los Filos is expected to yield 60 million metric tons of gold ore over the next 20 years, as well as some ancillary silver, lead and zinc. The mining operation will require investments of $1 billion over the mine’s anticipated 20-30 year lifetime.

Los Filos mine, Guerrero. Credit: Goldcorp

Los Filos mine, Guerrero. Credit: Goldcorp

The Los Filos project is actively opposed by several environmental groups, including The Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (La Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Minería, REMA), a network of communities, movements, organization, groups and individuals “affected by, and concerned about, the socio-economic impacts of mining in Mexico”.

REMA has joined the campaign to force Canadian mining firm Goldcorp to halt work at Los Filos. REMA supports the recently created  Mesoamerican Movement Against the Extractive Mining Model, which claims that the existing extractive mining model has proven to be “highly predatory”, and has “significantly increased extraction, causing destruction of territory, seriously affecting natural resources, and irreversibly damaging the health of Mexican citizens”. It is especially concerned that hundreds of tons of cyanide have already been used in Mexico to process gold ore, contaminating water reserves.

REMA cites Goldcorp’s “Los Filos” mining project in Guerrero as a point of particular concern and an example of what is happening throughout the country. REMA claims that there is inadequate regulation and environmental monitoring and that the project is “causing division of communities, disease and death from the chemicals used and environmental damage through drainage of acids and polluting dusts”.

Another Goldcorp mining proposal, at Alto Lucero in the state of Veracruz, also met with substantial opposition from local residents and environmental groups. For more information about the amounts of cyanide believed to be used in mines throughout Latin America, including Goldcorp projects, see:

Will Los Filos turn out to be a mega-mine or a mega-disaster? Only time will tell.

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Case study of the June 2013 ecocide in Hurtado Reservoir, Jalisco

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Case study of the June 2013 ecocide in Hurtado Reservoir, Jalisco
Jul 042013
 

This post presents a short case study of the dramatic ecocide in the Hurtado Reservoir in Jalisco a week ago that resulted in the sudden death of between 200 and 500 tons of fish.

What?

  • The ecocide killed between 200 and 500 tons of fish
  • 30 local residents were affected by gastrointestinal problems
  • 15 of them required treatment in local health centers
Local fisherman sees his livelihood disappear. Credit: Vanguardia

Local fisherman sees his livelihood disappear. Credit: Vanguardia

Where?

The ecocide occurred in the Hurtado Reservoir (Presa del Hurtado, aka the Valencia Dam) in Jalisco, mid-way between the villages of San Isidro Mazatepec and Bellavista, the location of a sugarcane mill (see map). The reservoir can hold up to 8,000,000 cubic meters of water. The two municipalities involved are Acatlán de Juárez and Tlajomulco de Zúñiga. The most affected community is the small village of San Pedro Valencia (about 300 inhabitants),

Location of Hurtado Reservoir (extract from INEGI 1:250,000 map)

Location of Hurtado Reservoir (extract from INEGI 1:250,000 map)

When?

The first reports were made on 25 June when a local government official in San Pedro de Valencia, in the municipality of Acatlán de Juárez, reported to state environmental protection officials that the water in the Hurtado Reservoir was contaminated with something smelling like molasses. Within 48 hours, officials had identified the source, and had conducted a formal inspection, reporting that the water was dark brown in color and contaminated with molasses.

Why?

According to press reports, an unlicensed firm in nearby Potrero los Charros was using molasses (a by-product of sugarcane mills) as an ingredient to make cattle food. Some of the molasses (melaza) was dumped into the San Antonio stream which carried them into the reservoir.

The problem arose because molasses have a very high biochemical oxygen demand (BOD). This means that they require large amounts of oxygen as they decompose. In this case, they required more oxygen than was available in the water in the reservoir, reducing the water’s dissolved oxygen content, effectively depriving all aquatic life of oxygen. While final results are pending, the fish are believed to have died of oxygen starvation.

Effects

  1. The local fishing cooperative of the Hurtado Reservoir has agreed to accept a moratorium on catching, selling or consuming local fish. The fishermen normally catch and market about 100 kg of fish a day.
  2. Health services are offering vaccinations to local residents and all those involved in the environmental clean-up.
  3. 18 local restaurants are closed until further notice. When they reopen, they will likely have to purchase fish from further away (eg the fish market in Guadalajara) at a higher price than they previously paid for local fish
  4. About 100 fish traders in nearby towns (including Tala, Acatlán de Juárez and Villa Corona) have lost a source of income.

Responses

  1. Within 48 hours of the first report, authorities had ordered the business responsible for the pollution to take immediate remedial action. Meanwhile, authorities began to clean up the dead fish. The fish are being buried in a 30 meter by 2 meter trench about one km away from the lake.
  2. Federal officials from the National Water Commission and the Environmental Secretariat were quickly on the scene; they promised access to federal financial assistance.
  3. Most of the clean up was carried out by about 100 local fishermen and volunteers, including firefighters.
  4. State health officials have closed the 18 small fish restaurants near the lake until further notice
  5. Local officials are also cleaning up the storage area, using tanker trucks to remove an additional 8,000 tons of molasses for appropriate disposal elsewhere.
  6. The municipality of Tlajomulco has issued the owner of the company with a fine of about 1.5 million pesos ($120,000) and further legal action is underway.

Remediation

  • Environmental expert Gualberto Limón Macías estimates it will take between two and four years to rehabilitate the reservoir. The priority is to re-oxygenate the water, possibly using solar-powered pumps, and seed the reservoir with young fish.
  • The University of Guadalajara has promised to arrange for a team of experts to provide specialist advice about how best to rehabilitate the lake.

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What are the 10 main pressures threatening the Primavera Forest in Jalisco?

 Other  Comments Off on What are the 10 main pressures threatening the Primavera Forest in Jalisco?
Jun 222013
 

A 1988 Management plan for the Primavera Forest (Plan de Manejo Bosque La Primavera), published by the University of Guadalajara, included a detailed list of the then-existing pressures on the forest.

Sadly, not much has changed since then, and almost all the sources of pressure mentioned in that study still apply today.

The Primavera Forest. Credit: Semarnat, 2003

The Primavera Forest. Credit: Semarnat, 2003

The management plan argues that the key areas (see map) where careful management is essential include:

  • Cerro San Miguel and Cerro Las Planillas, the highest elevations in the area
  • The environs of the tourist spa of Río Caliente (this spa is now closed)
  • Mesa de Nejahuete, in the center of the volcanic caldera, and
  • Mesa del León, considered an important habitat, primarily for fauna

The plan identifies the following sources of concern (note that this list is in no particular order, and certainly not in order of highest pressure to lowest):

1. Tourism. Poorly planned recreation areas, such as autodromes and spas. Issues resulting from this source of concern include pollution, waste disposal, soil erosion, landscape degradation, habitat change, reduced fauna and, switching to a human focus, delinquency. Motorcycles and trail bikes are a particular problem because of the associated noise pollution, annoyance and risk to other visitors, habitat destruction, the displacement of fauna and often lead to accelerated soil erosion.

2. Ejidos. Any expansion of neighboring ejidos means more homes, deforestation and landscape alteration.

3. Quarrying. The quarrying of local rocks such as pumice or river deposits, as well as a number of abandoned quarries can result in habitat destruction, erosion, forest degradation, accelerated mass movements (landslides, rockfalls), posing a risk to infrastructure, access routes and the potential pollution of ground water.

4. Hunting. Hunters leave spent cartridges that can pollute the soil, as well as wounded and abandoned animals. Larger fauna have become progressively more scarce. In addition, the presence of individuals carrying firearms poses a security threat.

5. Cultivation and Overgrazing. Increased cultivation (primarily for sugar cane, corn and beans) has gradually nibbled away at the edges of the forest, with the clearance method of slash and burn being a particular problem since it greatly raises the risk of wildfires, soil degradation and deforestation. As the number of access routes increases, it is easier for local farmers to graze livestock in the forest, reducing the health of the  grassland, and leading to a relative abundance of unwanted plants and weeds, accelerated soil erosion and the possible contamination of water sources.

6. Deforestation. Deforestation is also a pressure on the forest, in which the cutting of woodland for fuel (including bonfires) and for firebreaks, leads to changes in habitat and soil use, with the secondary effects of increased erosion, reduced ground water recharge and varying degrees of secondary forest succession.

7. Geothermal Power. The potential development of some areas for geothermal power by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has already involved the opening of access routes and would lead to noise contamination (with adverse effects on fauna) and possible pollution of ground water, air and soil, as well as deforested hillsides. The loss of vegetation cover would trigger accelerated erosion, and habitat destruction, further reducing water quality. Access routes attract other “users” such as those seeking to quarry local rocks or clear land for farming.

8. Settlements. Settlements and subdivisions have also encroached on the forest. Some are irregular/illegal settlements, but others are private homes and clubs. Regardless of economic level, these settlements result in a decrease in vegetation and the elimination of the soil’s litter layer, leading to soil compaction, lowered infiltration rates, and nutrient-depleted soils, as well as increased pollution and the gradual elimination of native fauna

9 Wildfires. Wildfires, such as that in 2012, destroy vegetation and cause a general degradation of the woodland. They can result in the accelerated degradation of soil, water and vegetation, leading to significant changes to soil structure, as well as increased runoff and reduced groundwater recharge.

10. Inadequate regulations. The problems faced by the Primavera Forest are compounded because the relevant local authorities have shown little interest in ensuring adequate regulations, supervision and enforcement.

Many of these ten major pressures are closely interrelated. Despite the good intentions back in 1988, it is clear now, with the benefit of hindsight, that the 1988 management plan did not achieve very much. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, and as the Primavera Forest gains international status as a possible Geo-Park, a more comprehensive and effective management plan can be devised and implemented.

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Mexico and the Environmental Sustainability Index

 Excerpts from Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Mexico and the Environmental Sustainability Index
Jun 132013
 

Environmental sustainability is a highly politicized term which almost all nations now eagerly claim as one of their goals. How true are these claims? The Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) combines five major components (see diagram) which include 76 separate measurements in all. It assesses how close countries are to environmental sustainability. The ESI includes the ecological footprint but also looks at levels of pollution, susceptibility to environmental disruptions, the effectiveness of environmental policies and each country’s contribution to global stewardship.

Comparison of ESI components for Mexico, USA and Canada. (Geo-Mexico. Figure 30.5) All rights reserved.

Comparison of ESI components for Mexico, USA and Canada. (Geo-Mexico. Figure 30.5) All rights reserved.

The countries with the highest ESI scores are predominantly resource-rich nations with low population densities, such as Finland, Norway and Sweden. Some small wealthy states such as Switzerland also make the top ten. In general, densely populated countries such as India and Bangladesh do not score as well.

Mexico’s low ranking in the pilot 2000 ESI table led to Mexico’s Environment Secretariat (SEMARNAT) exploring ways to ensure that international organizations such as the World Bank and World Resources Institute had faster access to updated data from Mexico. Government policy was modified to embrace the use of quantitative environmental data relating to sustainability.

In terms of global stewardship, Mexico and the USA are closer to the target for environmental sustainability than Canada (see diagram). For reducing environmental stresses, Mexico and Canada are ahead of the USA. However, for the other three components, Mexico lags well behind both its North American partners.

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Five Mexican beaches gain international Blue Flag certification

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Five Mexican beaches gain international Blue Flag certification
Jun 032013
 

For the first time ever, five Mexican beaches have been awarded Blue Flag certification. The Blue Flag system is a voluntary, international eco-label program run by the non-government, non-profit organization the Foundation for Environmental Education that recognizes beaches where water quality is excellent, where information and environmental education is readily available, and which are well managed, with high standards of safety and services. The announcement was made in Copenhagen, Denmark, where Blue Flag certification was given to 3100 beaches and 625 marinas worldwide.

Blue flag beaches in Mexico 2013

Mexico’s five Blue Flag beaches (see map) are:

  • Chahué, Santa María de Huatulco, Oaxaca
  • Chileno, in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur
  • Delfines, in Cancún, Quintana Roo
  • El Palmar, in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero
  • Nuevo Vallarta Norte, on Banderas Bay in Nayarit

What does the Blue Flag system take into account?

The Blue Flag beach criteria are grouped into four main categories:

1. Environmental Education and Information

The beach must host at least 5 environmental education activities and display information about:

  • coastal zone ecosystems and natural, sensitive areas in the coastal zone
  • bathing water quality
  • the Blue Flag system
  • the code of conduct for the beach area

2. Water Quality

  • Water quality must be “excellent” in line with international standards
  • The beach must not receive any industrial or sewage-related discharges
  • Any nearby coral reefs must be monitored to ensure they remain healthy
  • Algae, seaweed, etc., should be left on the beach unless it adversely affects beach quality

3. Environmental Management

  • A beach management committee must conduct regular environmental audits
  • The beach must comply with coastal zone planning and environmental legislation
  • The beach must be clean, with sufficient waste disposal and recycling bins
  • There must be adequate and clean sanitary facilities
  • Regulations must prevent unauthorized camping, driving and dumping
  • Regulations concerning beach use by domestic animals must be enforced
  • Sustainable means of transportation must be promoted in the beach area

4. Safety and services

The beach must have:

  • first aid equipment and an adequate number of lifeguards and/or lifesaving equipment
  • a system to manage beach use and prevent conflicts and accidents
  • emergency plans to cover any unexpected pollution event
  • safe access to the beach and regular safety patrols
  • a supply of potable drinking water
  • access and toilets for persons with disabilities
  • a map showing the location of all facilities

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Environmental news briefs relating to Mexico

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Environmental news briefs relating to Mexico
Apr 022013
 

This post describes several newsworthy developments relating to Mexico’s natural environment.

Financing to fight deforestation

The Inter-American Development Bank is giving Mexico $15 million in financial and technical assistance to support climate change mitigation efforts. The program will help communities and ejidos finance low carbon projects in forest landscapes in five states, all of which have high levels of net forest loss: Oaxaca, Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Jalisco and Campeche.

The program includes a $10 million loan for financing projects that must reconcile economic profit for the communities and generate environmental benefits through reducing the pressure on forests and promoting enhancement of carbon stocks. In addition, a $5 million grant will provide financial and technical assistance to support the viability of individual projects, by strengthening technical, financial and management skills.

The IDB says that the program is a pilot project that will allow lessons to be learned for its replication in other key geographic areas in Mexico. It should demonstrate a viable business model that promotes the reduction of deforestation and degradation while increasing economic returns. [based on an IDB press release]

Mexican company converts avocado seeds into biodegradable plastic

A Mexican company called Biofase has developed a way to turn avocado pits into 100% biodegradable plastic resins. Avocado pits are normally discarded as waste. Biofase will collect some of the estimated 30,000 metric tons of avocado pits discarded each month for processing. The company has patented the technology and is looking for additional raw material containing some of the same chemicals as avocados.

Huichol Indians oppose peyote conservation measure

A presidential decree signed last November prohibits the harvesting of the hallucinogenic peyote cactus from two protected areas in the state of San Luis Potosí. The decree has met fierce opposition from the indigenous Huichol (Wixarika) people, for whom the peyote is a sacred plant. The Huichol undertake a lengthy pilgrimage each year to gather peyote for subsequent use in their ceremonies.

The restriction on peyote harvesting is the latest in a long line of problems faced by the Huichol including the incursion by a large number of mining companies onto traditional territory. The Regional Council for the Defense of Wirikuta has demanded that the government guarantee the Huichol’s right to pick peyote, and called for the cancellation of 79 mining concessions (most of them to Canadian companies) that impinge on their sacred land. Critics claim that mining is having a devastating impact on the local environment, especially because the companies involved are using large quantities of highly toxic cyanide.

Expand the port or protect the coral reef?

In Avalan destruir arrecifes para ampliar puerto de Veracruz published in Mexico City daily La Jornada, Luz María Rivera describes how one of the final acts of the previous administration was to redraw the boundaries of the protected area of coral reef off the coast of Veracruz state. The new boundaries have reduced the protected offshore area near the cities of Veracruz, Boca del Río and Alvarado by about 1200 hectares (3000 acres). The redrawing of the protected area is to enable the expansion of the port of Veracruz, one of the country’s largest, and almost double its capacity. Government officials claimed that the area affected was already “damaged” and that the reef system was 98% or 99% “dead”.

Government-NGO accord to protect Mexican whale sanctuary

The Mexican government has signed an accord with the NGO Pronatura Noroeste to improve the protection of Laguna San Ignacio, the Pacific coastal lagoon which is a major breeding ground for gray whales. The lagoon has 400 kilometers (250 miles) of coastline, bounded by wetlands and mangroves, and is part of the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve in the northern part of the state of Baja California Sur. The accord calls for joint development of plans for protection, monitoring and tracking the whales and other species that inhabit the lagoon, as well as  establishing protocols for resolving any eventual environmental contingencies.

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Pemex boosts reserves and reduces its emissions

 Mexico's geography in the Press, Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Pemex boosts reserves and reduces its emissions
Dec 032012
 

It may come as something of a surprise to many observers, but during 2012, Mexico’s state-owned oil company Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos) has received several well-deserved plaudits for its efforts to slash the emissions associated with oil and gas exploration, reserves and production.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Global Reporting Initiative awarded Pemex the highest possible rating for social responsibility. The company also received excellent ratings for sustainable asset management. During 2011, Pemex’s proven reserves increased 1.1%, while the petro-giant cut total emissions by 17.3% compared to the previous year. Crude oil output averaged 2.55 million barrels a day in 2011. Carbon dioxide emissions were down 8.8% in 2011, while sulfur oxides have now fallen more than 50% since 2007.

Meanwhile, the production division of Pemex has been praised by World Bank experts for having reduced burn-off from its giant Cantarell gas field from 31% in 2008 to 3% in July 2011. Pemex has invested more than 1.6 billion dollars in the Cantarell field over the last six years in order to improve efficiency, with the installation of compressors, flow separation devices and re-injection technology. In the past three years, it has reduced total emissions, including greenhouse gases, from 13.6 billion cubic meters a year to 2.1 billion. Pemex is well on track to beat its target of 99% efficiency in gas recovery by 2014.

Crude oil production has risen steadily in 2012. For example, in August 2012, Pemex produced 2.56 million barrels of oil a day (b/d), its highest output since May 2011. The Chicontepec field in Veracruz is doing especially well. Its single best-performing well, named Presidente Alemán 1565, uses innovative technology, including three dimensional seismic mapping and horizontal drilling, to yield as much as the combined output of 28 other wells in the region.

Mexico’s current 3P (proven, probable, possible) reserves are also on the rise, and currently total 43 billion barrels of crude oil equivalent. After years of depletion, Pemex is now adding more oil and gas each year to its reserves than it is extracting. The oil giant recently announced a huge deep water, light crude discovery in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Tamaulipas, its first major find in the Perdido Fold Belt, where the total 3P reserves could be as high as 10 billion barrels. The Trión-1 well, drilled to a total depth of 4,500 meters (14,800 feet), is 40 km (25 miles) inside Mexico’s territorial waters and is expected to yield up to 400 million barrels of high quality crude.

Pemex also recently reported the largest land-based discovery of oil for about a decade. The Navegante-1 well, drilled in the South-East Basins 20 km from Villahermosa (Tabasco) found light crude oil with an APR gravity of 45 degrees, at a depth of 6800 meters. The field is 87 square kilometers in area and has estimated 3P reserves of about 300 million barrels of crude oil equivalent.

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