According to a Reuters report, Cuba-Petroleo (Cupet) plans to contract with foreign firms to drill exploratory wells as deep as 7,000 meters (23,000 ft) in waters of up to 3,000 meters.
“We will initiate a drilling campaign at the end of 2016 or the start of 2017,” Osvaldo Lopez, Cupet’s head of exploration, told Reuters on Wednesday.
“The essential goal of the new drilling campaign is at least two deep wells. There could be three. If there is a discovery there certainly will be more than two,” Lopez said on a tour of oil wells with international industry representatives.
Based on reports from Cupet, Cuba will drill under production sharing contracts with Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and Angola’s Sonangol.
After the tragic events surrounding BP’s Deep Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, a small but promising cooperation emerged between Cuba and the US in the area of offshore drilling safety. The Safe Seas — Clean Seas symposium, recently held in Havana, is a continuation of the cooperation that began years ago.
Due to US trade restrictions, the symposium did not address investment in hydrocarbon production in Cuba. Instead, the symposium explored ways to legally engage with Cuba in the areas of multinational oil spill response protocols, blowout prevention technology and environmental preservation.
Experts warn that a well blowout similar to the BP disaster could decimate Cuban beaches and the Florida Keys in as little as three days. If the oil reaches the Gulf Stream, a powerful north-south ocean current, it could flow up the coast to Miami and beyond.
The Cuba Journal spoke with Lee Hunt, a partner of Hunt Petty LP, the oil and gas consulting firm that organized the symposium in Havana. According to Mr. Hunt, “The risks for Cuba to drill offshore are not any greater than current deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, but the embargo adds additional risk in that the most advanced safety equipment made in the United States is not available to Cuba.”
It is unclear whether US law would allow environmental equipment to be exported to Cuba. Further, any complex equipment would require additional permission from US regulators for the provision of technical services and maintenance on location in Cuba’s territorial waters.