Cuba Postpones Drilling The Strip 'Til 2009

Cuban officials have rescheduled the planned drilling of the Cuban Crude Oil Strip in the Gulf of Mexico by a consortium of companies due to additional seismic work.

In January 2008, Petrobras and Companhia Cubana de Petroleo (CUPET) signed an agreement for a wide-range of operations, including exploration. Petrobras' expertise in offshore exploration has been put to good use, commented Cuban officials to the state-run media, yet more work needs to be completed before drilling can begin.

"In the Gulf of Mexico, we are doing seismic studies and our perspective is we should resume drilling in the area next year," Cuban Basic Industry Minister Yadira Garcia told Juventud Rebelde.

CUPET Director of Exploration Rafael Tenreyro drew a clearer picture of Cuba's exploration efforts, explaining to reporters the exploratory efforts offshore Cuba.

"Right now seismic studies are under way on 2,300 square kilometers and very soon three-dimensional studies will begin on 4,500 square kilometers in the Gulf of Mexico," Tenreyro said.

The consortium, led by Repsol YPF, was set to begin drilling in 2008. CUPET, which signed exploration agreements with seven different companies to perform exploration operations in 28 of the 59 GOM blocks in Cuba's "economic exclusion zone."

The decision to postpone drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was announced on the day that Cuba also stated it had produced its first 1 million tons of petroleum in 2008, a feat that gets the country closer to its goal of 4 million tons produced for the year.

"The progress of the program is very positive, and it says a lot about the results we are obtaining from the seismic studies and new exploration that we are continuing to make," Garcia said. "This makes us optimistic that we can continue working in the area of petroleum in Cuba."

The Strip lies offshore Cuba to the north of the island's west end. Garcia told Juventud reporters that U.S. companies are also interested in getting into the action on the strip.

"There have been meetings with businesspeople who have been asking and looking for information; in addition there is information that is public and accessible," said Garcia. "They are interested in working in Cuba but they are being blocked [by the United States' sanctions against Cuba]."

Estimates of Cuba's hydrocarbon potential include 4.6 billion barrels of oil and 1 Tcf of natural gas. The United States Geological Survey estimates that the North Cuba basin could hold as much as 9.3 billion barrels.

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