Natural gas crucial to Mexico’s quest for clean energy
The voluminous reserves of natural gas and its relatively low price in Mexico makes it an essential material for generating cleaner energy using combined-cycle power plants like those that Spain’s Iberdrola is constructing in various parts of the Aztec nation.
“We’re in one of the best areas in the world. And for combined-cycle, we believe that natural gas will be the basic energy source for the next 15 years, because of its abundance and its competitive price,” the director general of Iberdrola Mexico, Enrique Alba, told EFE.
According to the Mexican energy department’s “Natural Gas Prospect 2018-2032,” domestic demand for the fuel grew 28.4 percent between 2007 and 2017.
On Jan. 1, 2018, Mexico’s total proven, possible and probable gas reserves (3P) were 30.02 billion cubic feet, while the cost of the fuel here is roughly $3 per million BTUs (British thermal units), compared with $10 per million BTUs in Europe, Alba said.
A large part of the continuing rise in demand for natural gas in Mexico is due to the combined-cycle power plants, so-called because they use both a gas and a steam turbine.
At El Carmen in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, two imposing new plants, which today are on the point of starting commercial operations, dispense a delicate white vapor.
The 878MW 43 Noreste plant, also known as Escobedo, is 99 percent complete, while the 866MW El Carmen plant is 85 percent done.
Together, the two projects represent an investment of roughly $850 million.
And though the plants are practically twins, the energy they produce will be distributed through different channels.
“At Escobedo, awarded through public bidding, we will sell the energy to the (state-owned utility) Federal Electricity Commission, and at El Carmen we’ll sell it directly to the new wholesale electricity market,” Iberdrola Project Director Pablo Maño told EFE.
For the construction of this infrastructure, 4,000 jobs were created. And when both are in operation, there will be some 70 direct employees and 500 employed indirectly.
There were also some important challenges.
“This is the first time these machines are to be used in Latin American, and we developed the engineering ourselves,” Maño said.
As for pollutant emissions, Deputy Project Director Camilo Martinez said that Iberdrola uses the best technologies to guarantee that much less carbon dioxide is sent into the atmosphere than the law allows.
“We’re always well below the limit. We invest in that because tomorrow the rules can change,” he said.