Industrial-scale cogeneration takes off in Mexico

by Steve Hodgson

The well-established cogen markets of Europe and the US are served by the equally well-established trade associations, COGEN Europe and the CHP Association (formerly the USCHPA), which also act as pressure groups trying to support cogeneration/CHP industries and to transform the markets for their products.

A whole series of national trade associations do similar work in the individual countries of Europe and, in the US, eight regionally-based Clean Energy Application Centers lobby for and support CHP development locally. In addition to these organisations, the closely-linked district heating industry is also supported by Euroheat & Power in Europe and the International District Energy Association, which is based in the US but has wider horizons.

The existence of a trade association gives its members, the main industry players, a unified voice in making the case for the technology, and gives governments and regulators a way to directly address the industry. The associations tend to do a good job ” often ‘punching above their weight’ when it comes to making sure that cogeneration is treated according to its merits in energy debates and the development of legislation and regulations.

So it’s good to see the emergence of a new national trade association ” COGENERA Mexico, which is in the process of being constituted. The new organisation was introduced to the world at last month’s COGEN Europe conference in Brussels. It has a familiar agenda ” regulatory issues around cogeneration in Mexico; financing and fiscal incentives; promotion of the technology and development of a market for it; fuels and sustainability issues.

At the Brussels event, Ana Delia Cordova, a member of the Board of COGENERA Mexico, spoke of the value of learning from the experience of COGEN Europe and similar organisations already involved in promoting cogeneration, and of the cogen business opportunities opening up in Mexico.

And these opportunities may be many. The US Commercial Service has recently issued guidance on opportunities resulting from expected growth in cogeneration by the Mexican private sector in the coming years. It identifies the petroleum, petrochemicals, chemicals, sugar and paper and pulp industries as potential growth application areas.

In addition, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, PEMEX, and its Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) are already collaborating on cogeneration plants at PEMEX facilities that both cut steam costs for PEMEX and deliver low-cost electricity to CFE. The Commercial Service identifies 10 GW of potential cogeneration plants for PEMEX facilities alone, and suggests that the collaboration model could be extended beyond these two companies.

And, an alert published earlier this year by the Mexico office of international lawyers Baker & McKenzie reports new incentives for and activity in the cogen sector in Mexico, following helpful recent amendments to energy regulatory instruments. It points to 63 permits granted for new cogeneration plants in the country, adding up to some 3 GW of new generating capacity.

Meanwhile, reports in the last few weeks from the COSPP website ( suggest considerable activity is already underway:

  • Spain’s Iberdrola has begun work on a new 430 MW cogeneration plant at a PEMEX refinery in Salamanca, a city in Guanajuato state.
  • PEMEX has brought a 300 MW cogeneration scheme on line in the south-eastern state of Tabasco.
  • Rolls-Royce is to supply industrial gas turbine equipment for a proposed cogeneration scheme at a textile and chemicals complex in Veracruz.
  • Two Spanish contracting companies, OHL and Sener, are to build a 35 MW cogeneration scheme for the refining arm of PEMEX at a facility in the north-eastern state of Tampaulipas.

Cogeneration in Mexico seems to be having a growth spurt just now, and with sizeable schemes too. Assisted by a favourable regulatory environment and ample reserves of natural gas at low prices, the sector has very considerable potential. What’s needed now is investment from outside the country in new projects. And a new national trade association focused on cogeneration should help too.

Steve Hodgson
Contributing Editor

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