Posted on Saturday, 12.15.12
Oil rig arrives off Cuba for new exploration
By PETER ORSI
HAVANA -- A Norwegian-owned platform arrived in waters off Cuba's
north-central coast for exploratory drilling by the Russian oil company
Zarubezhneft, authorities said Saturday, renewing the island's search
for petroleum after three failed wells this year.
Drilling is to begin "in the coming days" and take six months, according
to a notice published by the Communist Party newspaper Granma. The depth
of the project was given as 21,300 feet (6,500 meters).
State-run oil company Cubapetroleo said in the announcement that the
Songa Mercur rig, owned by Songa Offshore of Norway, was inspected to
make sure it contains less than 10 percent U.S.-made parts. That allows
the companies involved in the drilling to avoid sanctions under the
50-year-old U.S. embargo against Cuba.
The exploration block in question, near the gleaming beaches of a major
tourist resort, is considered less promising than offshore areas to the
west where earlier this year a superdeep-water platform drilled three
wells deemed commercially nonviable.
The Scarabeo-9, a huge semisubmersible rig owned by Italy's Saipem, left
Cuban waters last month after sinking the three dud wells, and analysts
said it could be years before drilling resumed in those deep-water blocks.
Geologic surveys say 5 billion to 9 billion barrels of oil may lie off
Cuba's coast. Island authorities hope there may be even more and have
been banking on a big strike.
An injection of petrodollars could boost Cuba's struggling economy,
bankroll President Raul Castro's economic reforms and ease the island's
energy dependence on Venezuela, which has sent billions of dollars'
worth of oil on preferential terms.
"The new well has the objective of determining the potential of
petroleum and natural gas in this sector of our country," the notice in
Granma read. "Its results should contribute to the knowledge of the area
of the perforation, as well as all of north-central Cuba."
Cuba's oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico has prompted protest from
Cuban exiles in the United States and alarmed some who fear a spill
could befoul American shores from Florida to the Carolinas.
The notice in Granma said the Songa Mercur rig also underwent safety
inspection and is capable of drilling with minimum environmental risk."