Geological problems cause suspension of Cuban oil exploration


Zarubezhneft said it was halting work because of “geological” problems but will resume oil exploration next year. The announcement signalled an end to the only active exploration programme in Cuba, which now relies on heavily subsidized oil from Venezuela.


Cuba reportedly depends on an estimated 96,000 barrels of oil it receives daily from Venezuela, which amounts to about two-thirds of its consumption.


The Russians’ withdrawal comes as the Norwegian company that owns the drilling platform they have been leasing, the Songa Mercur, said it would be leaving Cuban waters in July for another contract.


Zarubezhneft’s decision signals “another disappointment” for Cuba’s dreams of finding oil, according to Jorge Pinon, a Cuba energy expert at the University of Texas in Austin.


The US Geological Survey has estimated that Cuba’s offshore waters have “significant undiscovered conventional oil potential” — between 4.6 billion and 9.3 billion barrels. Cuban officials estimate the potential reserves at 20 billion. “This is the second geological area in Cuba that seemed to be promising,” Pinon said.


Cuba’s oil explorations have caused concern among US environmentalists and tourism officials, claiming that any spills would impact the entire Eastern Seaboard, from the Florida Keys to Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

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