New rig to make seven drills, China preparing offshore move

A rig about to be completed in a Chinese shipyard is booked for seven exploratory drills in Cuban waters, beginning in early 2011, a trade association official told Reuters in Havana.

The seven projects are slated to begin in early 2011 and end in 2012, Lee Hunt, President of the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) was told by Cuban officials during a visit to Havana.

The first drill will be for a consortium led by Spain’s Repsol YPF, but neither Cuba nor the owner of the rig have said whether any other oil companies will contract the drilling platform.

The drilling of the Scarabeo-9 rig, owned by Saipem, a subsidiary of Italian oil company ENI SpA, would be the by far biggest concerted effort ever to tap oil in Cuban waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Only two offshore test drills have been performed in Cuban waters so far; in 2006, a drill by Repsol found high-quality oil, but not in commercial quantities.

Seven drills planned in Cuba: Saipem's Scarabeo-9


According to Reuters, Hunt also said that Cuban state oil company CubaPetróleo (Cupet) is interested in joining IADC as a member. A delegation of the Houston-based trade association is currently on the island, on invitation by the Cuban government which wants to be briefed on international security standards in offshore drilling. IADC is an international organization, but the U.S. government would require a special permit to allow financial transactions with a Cuban entity. The Iranian state oil company is a member

The arrival of the drilling rig seems to have sped up contracting and partnering in the Cuban offshore scene. Chinese state oil company CNPC is in negotiations with Cupet over contracting four blocks on the western fringe of Cuban waters, Miami oil consultant Jorge Piñón told Cuba Standard. Chinese drilling on the Cuban side of the Gulf is a politically explosive issue in Washington.

Also, Angolan state oil company Sonangol, according to Piñón, is negotiating with Cuba contracting four blocks near the U.S. marine boundary relinquished by Sherritt International Corp. Sonangol has helped Cupet in an investment in onshore drilling in Angola last year and is a partner with Cupet in Venezuela’s Orinoco basin.

Finally, the oil subsidiary of Russian gas giant Gazprom is in talks to become a junior partner of India’s ONGC Videsh, which contracted two blocks. Gazprom Neft recently agreed with Petronas to become a junior partner on four blocks contracted by the Malaysian state company.

Map courtesy Jorge Piñón


Onshore activity in Cuba. Map courtesy Jorge Piñón
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