Tuxpan-Tula pipeline project is a 287km natural gas pipeline that will connect Tuxpan in Veracruz to the gas facilities at the Tula pipeline, approximately 117km north of New Mexico.

The natural gas pipeline is owned and operated by TC Energy, (formerly TransCanada), an Alberta-based natural gas storage, transportation, and electricity generation company.

The project was originally scheduled to be commissioned in 2017 but opposition from the indigenous communities to let the pipeline go over their lands led to a revision of the pipeline route.

The £330.84m ($500m) project is now expected to commence operations in 2020.

Protests over the pipeline route and revised route details

The original route of the pipeline covered the Veracruz state, interconnecting with the Sur de Texas-Tuxpan pipeline at Tuxpan, transporting the natural gas to Puebla and finally terminating at Tula in Hidalgo state.

Indigenous communities of the region expressed strong disapproval over the proposed pipeline that will pass over their lands. The project was stalled in 2017 after a complaint was filed by the indigenous council to stop the construction of the pipeline.

In January 2020, the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador suggested a 90km reroute from the middle of the pipeline route so that it does not pass through the lands owned by indigenous communities.

Tuxpan-Tula pipeline details

The 36in diameter pipeline will carry 886 million cubic feet (Mcf) of natural gas per day with interconnections extending through the states of Puebla and Hidalgo.

The pipeline infrastructure includes a compressor station at Canada Rica in Veracruz and a meter station. The compressor station is equipped with three Solar Mars 100 turbo compressors, an air cooler system, cyclone separators, scrubber unit and pig launcher and receiver units. In addition, it is equipped SCADA and telecom systems, and power distribution system.

Construction of the compressor station required 122,000m³ of earth works and 6,000m³ of concrete.

Pipeline blast

A blast at a section of the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline located in Tlahuelilpan occurred in January 2020 killing 73 people. The cause of the blast was a puncture made in the pipeline by fuel thieves near one of the refineries.

Gas supply contract

The pipeline is supported by a 25-year gas transportation contract signed with Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), Mexico's state-owned power company.

The natural gas will be supplied to CFE’s combined-cycle power generating facilities located in the states of Puebla and Hidalgo as well as the central and western parts of Mexico. It will supply natural gas to both new and old power plants that are currently operating on fuel oil, which will shift to utilising natural gas as the main fuel.

Contractors involved

Bonatti, an oil and gas solutions company, was awarded the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the pipeline and the Canada Rica compression station.

Jacobs Engineering, an engineering, construction, and technical services company, was contracted to perform detailed engineering of the infrastructure associated with the pipeline including the compressor station and meter station.

GRUPO OCP, a civil works company, was contracted for the construction and electromechanical works of the pipeline and the compression station.

Natural gas market in Mexico

The supply and distribution of natural gas in Mexico is supervised by the Energy Regulatory Commission of Mexico (CRE). Increase in demand for electricity has led to a rise in demand for natural gas in the country.

Domestic supply of natural gas, however, has been declining forcing the country to import natural gas to meet majority of the demand. The power sector is one of main drivers for natural gas demand as electricity demand is projected to grow at an annual rate of 3.1% until 2030.

Apart from the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline project, Mexico has developed several other pipeline projects to meet natural gas demand including El Encino - La Laguna, EL Encino-Topolobampo and Sur de Texas – Tuxpan Pipeline.