HAVANA TIMES — The hopes of Cuba to become oil self-sufficient and possibly export received a new jolt over the weekend with news that the super Scarabeo 9 drill rig will be leaving Cuban waters for West Africa, reported Petroleumworld.com.
The specially made platform for deep water drilling is owned by the Italian oil service firm Saipem SpA, built in China for US $750 million.
The rig has made three failed attempts in Cuban waters to come up with a commercially viable well, each reportedly costing the driller over a $100 million.
The companies that under contract with the Cuban government sought the black gold were Repsol (Spain), Malaysia’s Petronas in partnership with Russia’s Gazprom Neft and PDVSA of Venezuela.
PDVSA said it will continue seeking oil off Cuba’s coast but did not say what rig it would be using to drill now that Scarabeo 9 won’t be available.
“Cuba’s best offshore hope now lies with Russia’s Zarubezhneft, which is set to begin drilling this month about 200 miles (320 km) east of Havana. It will be drilling in shallower depths, using a rig from Norwegian firm Songa Offshore SE capable of working in waters up to 1,200 feet deep,” noted Petroleumworld.
Cuba believes its offshore oil reserves could reach 20 billion barrels. Meanwhile, the US Geological Survey estimates there is around 5 billion, still an amount that could make a big change in the Cuban economy if tapped.
The island currently imports 100,000 barrels of discounted oil per day from Venezuela, making payment with the labor of tens of thousands of Cuban doctors, educators, sports trainers and other technicians.