Mexico’s CFE Increases Fossil Fuel Use for Electric Power Generation

Fossil fuel-driven energy generation by the state utility accounted for 61.7% of the total last year

A CFE thermoelectric power station in Villa de Reyes, in the northern Mexican state of San Luis Potosi.
May 25, 2022 | 12:00 PM

Mexico City — Mexico’s state utility Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) increased its use of fuel oil, which is highly pollutant due to its sulfur content, by 34.7% in its power generation during 2021, according to the company’s most recent report to the country’s Senate.

The company generated 162,809 TeraJoules (TJ) with the oil refining residue last year, compared to 120,822 TJ in 2020.

The company, which is headed by chief executive Manuel Bartlett, generated 13.8% of its electricity with the fuel last year, an increase of eight percentage points over the 5.6% of 2020.

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The utility attributes the increase in part to the winter storm that hit Texas last year and caused a shortage of natural gas and, in response, the CFE used fuel oil in its thermoelectric plants to maintain energy production while trying to reactivate electricity supply to 4.6 million customers in more than 20 states in the country.

The CFE was able to substitute part of the gas thanks to its 90% fuel oil inventory, plus the additional purchase of 846,564 barrels of fuel oil from state oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex).

The energy and petrochemical sector in the region of Tula, in Hidalgo state, where a Pemex refinery and a CFE thermoelectric plant are located, have a negative impact on the air quality in the capital city’s metropolitan area, and which is already facing its fourth environmental emergency of 2022.

Mario Morales Vielmas, CFE’s director general of contract brokerage, had previously commented to Bloomberg Línea that the contamination attributed to the thermoelectric plant is debatable, because it is located directly opposite the Pemex petrochemical complex.

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President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his energy team have criticized the use of solar and wind technologies for being expensive and for their power generation intermittency, which they claim puts the national grid at risk.

Fossil fuel-driven energy generation by CFE last year was 79,000 GigaWatts-Hour (GWh), or 61.7% of the total, while with clean energy it was 48,958 GWh, or 38.2% of the total, according to the utility.

“With the 48,958 GWh of clean energy generation, during 2021, 34.4 million tons of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere were avoided,” the company said.