Petrobras Set to Explore Gulf of Mexico Offshore Cuba

Petrobras and the Companhia Cubana de Petroleo (Cupet) signed a wide-ranging exploration & production, lubricant, refining, maintenance, research & development, and human resource cooperation agreement in Havana on Jan. 15.

Reports indicate that Petrobras will assist Cupet in harnessing its exploration power for use in the Gulf of Mexico.

Specific Memorandums of Understanding were also signed to define the stages and deadlines to be fulfilled to analyze and make exploration and production and lubricant projects viable.

The documents were signed by Petrobras' president, Jose Sergio Gabrielli de Azevedo, and by Cupet's general director, Fidel Rivero Prieto, during the official visit made by President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva to Cuba. Petrobras' president was part of the President of the Republic's official entourage, which was formed by Brazilian ministers and executives, and was in Havana from January 13 to 15.

The agreement signed between Petrobras and Cupet is the outcome of understandings reached between the two companies. Last September, a mission of executives from several Petrobras areas visited Cuba to identify opportunities in the country's oil industry.

In exploration and production, the agreement that was signed today foresees the assessment of the offshore blocks in the Cuban sector of the Gulf of Mexico. The Cuban government has been authorizing foreign companies to operate in that region since the late 1990s.

Despite the possibility of large quantities of crude located in Cuba's Gulf waters, U.S. companies have been forbidden by the U.S. government to operate in the area because of the 50-year-old trade embargo imposed. Cuba has searched for its own access to the black gold by allowing Spanish, Canadian, Indian, and Malaysian companies to sign exploration contracts.

The document also foresees technical and economic analyses for the construction of a lubricant factory in Havana. Next week, two Petrobras work groups will be in Cuba to advance the talks on the projects that Petrobras must make viable in cooperation with Cupet.

During a meeting held yesterday, in Havana, among Basic Industry minister Yadira García, Cupet’s director, and the president of Petrobras, it was also arranged that studies will be undertaken to establish agreements for system, equipment and facility maintenance, as well as cooperation in the research and development areas.

In February, another Brazilian technical mission will go to Cuba to discuss exchanges and cooperation in the human resource area.