October 20, 2011, 5:56 PM EDT
By Katarzyna Klimasinska
(Updates with comments about contractors in fourth paragraph.)
Oct. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Repsol YPF SA, Spain's biggest oil company, will
let the U.S. inspect its Scarabeo 9 rig before the ship enters Cuban
waters for exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, a U.S. regulator
"It's no question that we could do a better, more full- value inspection
once the rig is on site, but this is a lot better than nothing," Michael
Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental
Enforcement, said during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
hearing in Washington today. "We're doing everything we possibly can to
Cuba has leased tracts 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the Florida coast,
raising concerns that drilling may lead to an oil spill that might foul
American beaches. The U.S. has limited ability to prevent accidents or
intervene during them because it imposed a trade embargo in 1962. The
U.S. waters bordering Tampa and the Florida Keys are closed to drilling.
The U.S. asked Repsol, based in Madrid, for more information about the
contractors it will use offshore Cuba, and is considering demanding
oil-reservoir data Repsol said is confidential, according to Bromwich.
Repsol, which plans to drill off the Cuban coast by the end of the year,
is fully cooperating with U.S. authorities, company spokesman Kristian
Rix said in a phone interview.
U.S. Cleanup Licenses
The rig is owned by Saipem SpA, based in Milan.
The Commerce Department issued a number of licenses for U.S. oil-spill
containment and cleanup companies to use boom, skimmers and dispersants
in Cuban waters after an accident, Bromwich said.
The BP Plc well 40 miles off the Louisiana coast that spilled almost 5
million barrels of oil into Gulf waters polluted beaches in Mississippi,
Alabama, Texas and Florida. The April 2010 accident also shut a swath of
federally controlled fishing grounds over an area the size of Nebraska.
Repsol will follow U.S. regulations when drilling off Cuba's coast and
will report its oil-spill response capabilities to U.S. authorities,
Bromwich told lawmakers.
--Editors: Judy Pasternak, Bob Brennan
To contact the reporter on this story: Katarzyna Klimasinska in