Cuba could begin selling deepwater crude in 2011, local and international press quoted Garcia as saying at an international oil and gas congress in Havana.
The Caribbean country has divided its gulf exclusive economic zone into 59 blocks, 16 of which are under contract to foreign companies including Canadian firms Pebercan (TSX: PBC) and Sherritt (TSX: S) and Spain's Repsol YPF (NYSE: REP). Another eight blocks are under negotiation.
The minister said talks also are underway with Repsol YPF regarding a platform due to begin drilling in 2008.
Pebercan last month announced plans to invest roughly US$65mn in Cuba to drill seven wells and build ground-level facilities. Cupet and its Venezuelan counterpart PDVSA in January signed agreements to carry out joint hydrocarbons exploration and certification work.
Cuba's proven oil reserves total 750Mb and the country produced 76,000b/d of oil in the first half 2006, according to information on the US government's Energy Information Administration website.
A US Geological Survey report from 2004 estimates Cuba has undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves of 4.6Bb and 9.8Tf3 (278Bm3) respectively.
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