France’s Total denies offshore oil exploration deal with Cuba
HAVANA/PARIS (Reuters) – French oil company Total (TOTF.PA) on Tuesday
denied it had signed an offshore exploration deal with Cuba during
President Francois Hollande’s visit there.
Cuba’s state-run television reported that Total had inked a deal to
explore for oil with Cuban state oil monopoly CubaPetroleo (Cupet),
without providing further detail.
“Total categorically denies it has signed an offshore exploration
agreement with Cuba,” a spokesman said.
A source with knowledge of the matter said Total’s marketing and
services branch, which handles oil products distribution such as
lubricants and jet fuel, had signed an extension to an existing letter
of intent for a bitumen joint venture with Cuba.
Total has no existing exploration activity in Cuba, and in 2014 only had
limited marketing activities for the sale of speciality products there,
according to its annual report.
A dozen foreign firms have explored in Cuba’s deep waters over the
years, sinking four wells but finding no oil.
Total has explored close to shore, drilling two wells in the early
1990s. They came up dry and Total left in 1995.
For over a decade, Cuba has asserted its Exclusive Economic Zone off the
northwest coast holds more than 20 billion barrels of undiscovered crude.
Last week Cuba unveiled new data it said confirmed there were billions
of barrels of oil beneath its Gulf of Mexico waters.
The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated the region holds 5 billion to 7
Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] and Russia’s state-run
Zarubezhneft still retain exploration rights, according to Roberto
Suarez Sotolongo, Cupet’s co-director.
Cuba hopes the discovery of oil offshore will free it from dependence on
other countries, such as socialist ally Venezuela.
French President Hollande, who was travelling with French business
executives, this week became the first serving Western European leader
to visit Cuba since Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez in 1986.
(Reporting by Marc Frank in Havana and Michel Rose in Paris; Editing by
Daniel Trotta, Lisa Shumaker and Dale Hudson)
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