Repsol signs Saipem for Cuba wells
Spanish oil giant Repsol YPF has contracted a Saipem drilling rig for
operation in Cuba's untapped offshore fields.
News wires 06 May 2010 02:37 GMT
A spokeswoman for Saipem, Eni's offshore drilling unit, told Reuters
Repsol has signed a one-year contract for the rig, which is under
construction in China and expected to be finished by year's end.
She would not confirm that it will be operated in Cuba, but
advertisements on the Internet were seeking workers for a
semi-submersible rig being built in China for work in Cuban waters.
A source involved in the project, who asked not to be named, said the
jobs were posted for Milan-based Saipem. Cuban state oil company Cupet
declined to comment.
Repsol , which also refused to comment so far, drilled the only
exploration well in Cuba's part of the Gulf of Mexico in 2004 and said
it found hydrocarbons.
Norway's Statoil and a unit of India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation
later joined the partnership.
A second well has been awaited ever since, and, if successful, likely
will open the door to full-scale exploitation of Cuba's offshore.
Cuba estimates it has 20 billion barrels of oil in its part of the Gulf
of Mexico, which abuts the oil-rich US and Mexican zones of the gulf,
and Havana views its possible production as a godsend.
The communist-led island produces about half its energy needs from
onshore wells and gets the rest from oil-rich socialist ally Venezuela
at favorable prices.
The general assumption in the oil business is that difficulties created
by the US trade embargo against Cuba have contributed to Repsol's delay
in sinking a second well.
The 48-year-old embargo limits the amount of US technology that can be
used. This complicates finding a rig because US companies have long
dominated the offshore oil business.
Also, companies doing business in the US fear they could suffer official
retribution there for operating in Cuba.
In recent weeks, sources have said Repsol appears finally to be moving
ahead toward drilling a second and possibly third exploration well.
Some say they could start as early as next fall, others later.
"Things are moving forward, there will be no more delays," one person
close to the project told Reuters last week.
"We have instructions to prepare everything," said another person who is
involved in logistics for the project.
Saipem's Scarabeo 9 rig is being built at Yantai Raffles Shipyards in
Yantai, China, according to the shipyard's website.
Earlier news reports in oil industry publications indicated work began
on Scarabeo 9 in 2007 and the rig was initially scheduled for delivery
in late 2009.
The reports do not mention Cuba, but say the rig, which has the latest
technology and can operate in water depths to 3600 metres, is to be
deployed in the Gulf of Mexico.
The employment ads do not say when the drilling rig is expected to go to
Cuba, but they suggest some urgency, giving a 25 May deadline for
applications and a starting date of "ASAP" — as soon as possible.
A human resources expert in the oil industry said offshore rig operators
typically hire employees several weeks before the rig is to ship out,
but added that sometimes the lead time for hiring can stretch to several
Cuba's portion of the Gulf of Mexico has been divided into 59 blocks, of
which 17 have been contracted to companies including Repsol and its
partners, Malaysia's Petronas, Brazil's Petrobras , Venezuela's PDVSA
Whether they will find as much oil as Cuba estimates is in dispute. The
US Geological Survey has estimated Cuba's offshore fields hold 4.6
billion barrels of oil and 9.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Part of Cuba's gulf zone is within 50 miles of Florida, where US
politicians have raised fears that Cuban drilling could lead to an
accident, like the current huge oil spill off the Louisiana coast.
Cuban oil officials have not commented on the US spill, but in the past
have only expressed impatience that their own country's fresh drilling
has not begun.
Published: 06 May 2010 02:37 GMT | Last updated: 06 May 2010 17:36 GMT