Dutch trader Trafigura to be Mexico's first private fuel importer

Jun 08, 2016 12:00 AM

Trafigura is on track to become one of the first private companies to produce fuel in Mexico as the nation opens its energy market to foreign investment. Taking full advantage of the opening of Mexico's fuel market, Amsterdam-based Trafigura and its Singapore-based subsidiary Puma Energy Group have secured permission to import 60 percent of the gasoline authorized to enter the country.

The Dutch trading house and unnamed partners plan to open a fractionation plant in Mexico's gas-rich Burgos region by the end of 2017 that will process heavy naphtha from national oil company Petroleos Mexicanos into diesel and light naphtha, said a Pemex official who couldn't be named because of company policy. The Pemex official couldn't say what the plant's capacity will be. Trafigura spokeswoman Victoria Dix declined to comment.

The agreement gives Pemex part of the plant's production and allows Trafigura to sell to privately owned gasoline chains, the Pemex official said. Gas from Burgos now goes to refiners on the U.S. Gulf Coast for processing.

“Is this going to make the Valeros of this world go out of business? No,” said Robert Campbell, head of oil products research at Energy Aspects on the phone from New York. “But it is a step in the direction of the opening of Mexico's downstream market, and it shows the opportunities are there for some lateral thinking.”

Campbell said the deal may also create synergies for Trafigura and its subsidiary Puma Energy should they enter the fuel retail market or invest in energy infrastructure in Mexico.

Trafigura and Puma have snapped up fuel import permits in Mexico since private companies were authorized to participate in the market in April this year, part of recent energy reforms that opened the doors to private foreign investment.

As of June 3, the two companies together had permits to import a combined 17.8 billion liters of gasoline (112 million barrels) and 9.2 billion liters of diesel, according to the latest data available from Mexico's Energy Ministry.

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