Zama field

From Global Energy Monitor

CO2 Emissions

Total CO2 that would result from combustion of the estimated 2 billion barrels of oil in the Zama field amounts to 860 million tonnes.

Strategic Significance

While Mexico's oil production has been declining, the offshore discovery of the large Zama field in the Sureste basin has been touted as one of the largest new plays in the Western Hemisphere in recent years, with the potential to reverse the decline in national production.

Companies Involved

The field was discovered and will be operated by Talos Energy as Mexico's first privately-owned oil field.[1]

Potential ESG Risks


According to former Pemex chief Adrian Lajous Vargas, "Corruption is everywhere in all areas and at all levels of the hierarchy...organized crime has moved into the logistical activities of Pemex."[2]

NGO's Involved

Local Opposition

Mexico is the sixth-most visited country in the world, and the tourism sector, "an industry without smokestacks," plays a major role in the national economy. That industry is heavily concentrated on the Gulf Coast and is highly sensitive to the effect of oil spills and other impacts of offshore drilling.

Mexico's Mesoamerican Barrier Reef has received less international attention than Australia's Great Barrier Reef, but it is the second largest in the world and is already suffering severe impacts from algae blooms and other pollution.[3] While the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is located on the Caribbean Coast and therefore somewhat farther south than the current areas subject to drilling, the impacts of any spill on the Gulf Coast would certain have a negative effect.

The coastal provinces of Amaulipas to the north and Veracruz to the south are directly adjacent to the drilling area includes the cities of Veracruz and Villahermosa. This coast is reknowned for its natural beauty and pre-Columbian archaeological sites.

Privatization of oil has been a hot-button issue in Mexico for the past decade, and environmental issues are one of the core elements of the debate. One article noted such issues as having been at the core of the original appropriation of oil in 1938: "For local oil workers, strikes and sabotage became a way of life. Beyond the refineries and oil fields of Veracruz and Tamaulipas themselves, massive oil spills regularly threatened the livelihood of fishermen and farmers. And the horrific fires and explosions, the smoke and fumes that billowed from inside oil operations, impinged on the surrounding towns, stoking an anger and resistance that by 1938 made expropriation seem the best solution."[4]

One writer described the growing opposition as follows:[4]

The damaging hand of state-run oil and petrochemical production on this region was made abundantly clear on August 16, at a gathering I conducted at the Universidad Veracruzana in Minatitlán. There, a representative array of citizens and Pemex spokespeople shared recollections of just how deeply this industry had affected their region. Though Pemex representatives argued that its attention to the environment had much improved starting in the early 1990s, they made little effort to deny the flood of critical testimony that followed. Fisherman and biologists reported plummeting populations of fish all along the river, especially near the plants. Those living in neighborhoods near the refinery talked of regular visitations by fumes, smoke, and strange smells. Both they and doctors spoke of unusual concentrations of childhood leukemia and other deadly ailments around plants and in the region as a whole. Nevertheless, a dearth of statistics or other studies—even more sparse than in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley”—has kept most of these claims in the realm of the “merely” anecdotal.
The good news is that many in southern Veracruz, at least, already know the drawbacks of having an oil industry next door, and that some of them have been organizing. But thus far, aside from Greenpeace Mexico and a 2007 visit from Global Community Monitor, they have received little support either from national or international environmental groups. Those Americans who have become so concerned about fracking or oil drilling or climate change need to lift their eyes beyond the confines of their own local and national debates. In this historic, far-reaching contest over the future of Mexican oil and gas, all these same threats are in play, boding a new depth of devastation to the humanity and ecology of this far corner of the earth.

Project Status

The field was discovered by Talos Energy in 2017. Production is expected to begin in 2022, and Talos estimated that the Zama field Talos: Zama field could deliver first oil in 2022 and will provide 10% of Mexico's oil by 2024.[1]


Domestic Political Situation

In July 2018 newly elected President Andres Manuel López Obrador pledged to increase oil production from 1.9 million bpd to 2.5 million bpd.[5]

Project Economics

International Dynamics


Articles and resources


Related articles

External resources

External articles