HAVANA – The oil platform expected to begin drilling this summer in Cuban waters of the Gulf of Mexico is one of the “world’s safest and most modern” and will operate under “very strict” regulations, a senior government engineer said on Tuesday.
Manuel Marrero, the top oil specialist with Cuba’s Ministry of Basic Industry, offered those assurances in a speech at the 4th International Earth Science Convention and Fair in Havana.
Spain’s Repsol YPF is leasing the offshore platform for exploratory efforts in Cuba’s Exclusive Economic Zone of the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.
The zone, which is estimated to hold up to 9 billion barrels of petroleum, covers some 112,000 sq. kilometers (43,240 sq. miles) and is divided into 59 blocks of 2,000 sq. kilometers (772 sq. miles) each.
Repsol and six other foreign oil companies, including Venezuelan state-owned giant PDVSA and PetroVietnam, operate in the blocks.
The “very prestigious” and experienced firms planning to drill in Cuba’s Gulf waters are no more risk-prone than any other oil company, Marrero said.
Taking into account the April 2010 disaster at a BP Plc platform in U.S. Gulf waters, Cuba’s drilling plans include “all reasonable measures” to ensure safety and protection of the environment, the engineer said.
At least five offshore wells are to be drilled over the course of 2011-2013, according to Marrero.
“We are all hopeful – without false, foolish hopes – that there are probabilities of finding great deposits of petroleum and gas,” he told attendees at the conference.
Foreign companies have invested more than $2.8 billion in oil exploration and production in Cuba, a “modest” sum Marrero attributed to the discouraging effects of Washington’s 48-year-old economic embargo against the island.
He said 37 offshore blocks are still available and emphasized that Cuba is ready to welcome companies from anywhere “as long as they respect the sovereignty and laws of our country.”
Cuba’s annual domestic oil production is roughly 21 million barrels, Marrero said. EFE