Companies abandon search for oil in Cuba's deep waters
Threat to Florida's environment reduced as drillers look elsewhere
By William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
April 14, 2013
WASHINGTON — After spending nearly $700 million over a decade, energy
companies from around the world have all but abandoned their search for
oil in deep waters off the north coast of Cuba near Florida, a blow to
the Castro regime but a relief to environmentalists worried about the
possibility of a major oil spill.
Decisions by Spain-based Repsol and other companies to drill elsewhere
greatly reduce the chances that a giant slick along the Cuban coast
would ride ocean currents to South Florida, threatening its beaches,
inlets, mangroves, reefs and multi-billion-dollar tourism industry.
The Coast Guard remains prepared to contain, skim, burn or disperse a
potential slick. And Cuban officials still yearn for a lucrative strike
that would prop up its economy. A Russian company, Zarubezhneft, is
drilling an exploratory well in shallower waters hugging the Cuban
shoreline south of the Bahamas.
But while some oil has been found offshore, exploratory drilling in deep
waters near currents that rush toward Florida has failed to reveal big
deposits that would be commercially viable to extract, discouraging
companies from pouring more money into the search.
"Those companies are saying, `We cannot spend any more capital on this
high-risk exploration. We'd rather go to Brazil, we'd rather go to
Angola, we'd rather go to other places in the world where the
technological and geological challenges are less,'" said Jorge Pinon, an
oil industry analyst at the University of Texas, who consults with U.S.
and Cuban officials as well as energy companies.