Cuba, Russia Ink Deal on Zarubezhneft's EEZ Gulf Ops

According to the RIA-Novosti news agency, Russia and Cuba have inked a preliminary agreement for operations in Cuba's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Gulf of Mexico.

Signed yesterday by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, the agreement relates to Russian oil company Zarubezhneft's activities in Cuba's sector of the Gulf. Sechin met with Cuban President Raul Castro and other officials during a working visit in Havana.

"We consider that an outcome of this cooperation will be new opportunities both for Cuba as well as Zarubezhneft," Sechin was quoted as saying.

Additionally, Russia will provide a $150 million loan for two years to the Latin American country to finance the deliveries of Russian construction and agricultural equipment.

Potentially situated on an oil bonanza, Cuba has claimed that the subsea geology of its Gulf sector is comparable to Mexico's massive Cantarell oil field in the Bay of Campeche, and believes that waters off of its northwest coast could contain as much as 20 billion barrels of oil.

The U.S. Geological Survey, however, estimated in 2004 that Cuban waters may hold between 5 billion to 10 billion barrels of oil.