Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Russian oil company to invest $126m in offshore exploration

Russian state oil company Zarubezhneft will spend close to $126 million

on near-shore exploration off north-central Cuba that will begin in

December, a Russian official said during a visit to the island.

The Songa Mercur, a Soviet-built and Norwegian-owned semi-submersible,

arrived Nov. 15 in Cuban waters, Russian Comptroller Sergei Stepashin

confirmed. According to Russian news service, a delegation of

Russian and Cuban officials visited the platform Thursday, after it

arrived in Cuban waters from Trinidad & Tobago. The group included

Stepashin, Zarubezhneft CEO Nikolay Brunich, and Russia's ambassador to

Havana, Mikhail Kamyshin.

Zarubezhneft chartered the semi-submersible for 325 days to drill in

Block L, the easternmost of four blocks the company leased in 2009.

Block L is located off the keys of Villa Clara province, near Cayo Santa

María, a new beach tourism destination Cuba has been developing over the

past 10 years.

The first exploration results, according to Stepashin, will be announced

in May.

"It's an important investment, but it's an investment in the future,"

Stepashin said, according to RIA Novosti, before meeting with Raúl

Castro. Both expressed confidence, according to the Russian news service.

"We hope that in a fourth intent, following three failed ones, we will

see 'big oil'," the Russian official said, referring to exploratory

drilling this year by the Scarabeo 9 platform. "This would be of

enormous help to the Cuban economy and a step ahead in our relations, as

well as a response to the defenders of the [U.S. embargo]."

Zarubezhneft's confidence is based on prospecting done by the Soviet

predecessor company, he said.

The Songa Mercur is owned by Oslo-based Songa Offshore AS. The

shallow-water rig, built in in a Soviet shipyard 1989 and updated in

Galveston, Texas, in 2007, can drill in depths of up to 1,200 feet. In

contrast, the Scarabeo 9 platform, used by Repsol, Petronas and PdVSA in

Cuba, can drill in depths up to 12,000 feet; the Scarabeo was

custom-built in China and Singapore with minimal U.S. content, to comply

with U.S. sanctions.

Zarubezhneft subsidiary JSC RMNTK Nefteotdacha has also begun onshore

prospecting in the Boca de Jaruco area near Havana and expects to begin

drilling in March or April. Last year, the Russian oil company signed an

agreement with CubaPetróleo about the use of experimental technology to

maximize production in the mature oil field. If the technology is

successful, Zarubezhneft and CubaPetróleo will expand their cooperation.

Before the visit to the oil rig, Stepashin and Cuban officials signed

anti-corruption agreements in Havana that include training and

professional enhancement courses for Cuban auditors.

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