MEXICO CITY, Aug 9 (Reuters) – Mexico’s Pemex is looking for oil projects in the United States, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina to keep up output after an energy reform that means it is sharing more domestic production, a top executive from the state-run oil company said on Wednesday.

Exploration chief Jose Antonio Escalera mentioned Argentina’s giant Vaca Muerta shale play as an interesting project where Pemex could jump into a partnership.

“We are willing to participate in projects even with minimum stakes,” Escalera said in an interview at the Reuters Latin America Investment Summit.

Pemex earlier this year signed its first farmout to explore and develop the $11 billion Trion deepwater project along with Australia’s BHP Billiton.

The Mexican firm yields a portion of the barrels it now controls by encouraging the farmouts. It plans to ramp up partnerships for blocks that require large investment, technology or expertise.

It sees investment in oil projects overseas as a way to compensate for lower domestic output by adding reserves and external production to its portfolio while gaining know-how, Escalera said.

Pemex’s oil output has declined since 2004. It expects to produce between 1.9 million and 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2018 and achieve a net output of 2 million bpd by 2027, after subtracting its partners’ farmout production.

“We need to maintain a significant production profile to get rid of the debts and labor liabilities we currently have … In a decade, we will still be Mexico’s largest producer,” Escalera said.

A portion of the new production would come from onshore fields including Chocol and Valeriana in southeast Mexico, where exploration work is planned to finish next year to add 10,000-20,000 bpd of early production, Escalera said.

But a larger investment in exploration is required, according to Escalera, after a 40-percent budget cut in recent years.

The company is in talks with Mexico’s oil regulators to get a two-year extension for reaching the minimum investment required for more than 100 domestic blocks assigned in 2014 as part of the reform, after low oil prices crimped its ability to invest.

If the parties do not reach an agreement, Pemex could lose a portion of the blocks it got three years ago for exploration work.

(Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez and Marianna Parraga; Editing by Bill Trott and Phil Berlowitz)

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