HAVANA—Cuban officials say that exploratory drilling to assess the potential for oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico is likely to resume in the second quarter of this year, a sign that lower world oil prices have not derailed efforts by the Cuban government and its foreign corporate partners to keep moving toward offshore oil production.
Cuba believes it has major oil reserves in its waters. But the prospect of exploratory drilling—followed by likely future commercial drilling—in the Florida Straits has fired controversy in the United States, with the expectation that someday, foreign oil firms could be drilling as close as about 50 miles from parts of Florida.
The exploratory drilling will take place about 20 miles north of Havana and will be conducted by a consortium led by the Spanish oil firm Repsol, working with India’s state-run Oil & Natural Gas Co. and Norway’s StatoilHydro. Other exploratory drilling in the portion of the Gulf under Cuba’s economic control is anticipated in 2010 and 2011.
“Cuba has high potential from an exploratory point of view,” said Rafael Tenreyro Perez, exploration manager for Cubapetroleo (Cupet), the Cuban state oil company, in an interview. Seismic tests suggesting possible oil deposits over the past two years in Gulf waters were “very encouraging,” he said.
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