Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Posted on Monday, 08.06.12

2nd Cuban offshore oil well also a bust


Associated Press

HAVANA — A second deep-water exploratory well in the Gulf of Mexico has

proved a bust, Cuba's state oil company announced Monday, dealing

another blow to the island's dreams of petroleum riches.

The drilling operation carried out by PC Gulf, a subsidiary of

Malaysia's Petronas, and Gazpromneft of Russia, concluded July 31 off

the western province of Pinar del Rio, Cuban state oil company

Cubapetroleo said in a statement.

Analysis of the findings revealed an "active petroleum system that could

extend to other parts of the four blocs contracted by PC Gulf and

Gazpromneft, and even beyond their limits," read the statement, which

was published by Communist Party newspaper Granma.

"Nevertheless, at that point the rocks are very compact and do not have

the capacity to deliver significant quantities of petroleum and gas," it

continued, "so it cannot be qualified as a commercial discovery."

Exploratory wells commonly turn out to be dry or not viable, and experts

say production was always at least three to five years out from any

confirmed strike.

Still, it was disappointing news for a cash-strapped country hoping for

an economic lifeline, after another well sunk by Spanish company Repsol

came up dry in May.

"A lot of people have been very naive in thinking that an oil-rich Cuba

was going to materialize overnight, and that is not the case," said

Jorge Pinon, former president of Amoco Oil Latin America and now an

energy expert at the University of Texas. "You don't just turn the

faucet on overnight."

An estimated 5 billion to 9 billion barrels of crude may be buried off

Cuba deep below the Gulf of Mexico, according to geologic surveys, and

authorities are hoping the reserves could be even bigger.

Cubapetroleo said PC Gulf and Gazpromneft will study the geologic

information gained from drilling the 15,300-foot (4,666-meter) well to

evaluate the potential of other parts of the four blocs they have


Ultradeep-water drilling is technologically challenging and extremely

costly, with the platform that drilled out the two wells this year being

leased out at $500,000 a day. In Cuba's case, just finding a suitable

rig was a huge obstacle.

To comply with the 50-year-old U.S. embargo, Repsol and Petronas had to

turn to the Scarabeo-9, a one-of-a-kind vessel built with less than 10

percent U.S.-made parts to avoid triggering sanctions.

After Repsol opted out of a contract to sink a second well and Monday's

announcement of Petronas' failed try, the massive semisubmersible now

passes to Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA for an attempt near the

island's western tip.

Sonangol of Angola has an option to drill next, but after that the

Scarabeo-9 is under contract to drill off Brazil with no word on when it

might again be available to return to Cuban waters.

"The difficult part is that they're going to lose what I call 'the

shovel.' Once the Scarabeo-9 finishes, that's it," Pinon said. "It's

going to take a long time again for … anybody else to drill additional

exploratory wells."

In June, Russian company Zarubezhneft signed an $88 million, 325-day

contract with Songa Offshore SE of Cyprus to rent out the Songa Mercur

drilling rig for exploration off Cayo Coco, one of Cuba's leading

tourist resort areas, beginning in late November.

But that bloc in the Bahamas Channel is relatively shallow, and Pinon

said the Songa Mercur is not capable of the kind of ultradeep drilling

required in the Gulf of Mexico, where nearly all Cuba's offshore

exploration zones lie.

Follow Peter Orsi on Twitter at

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