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Good News: Oil Drilling Off Florida Begins Nov. 1. Bad News: It’s in Cuba.

Hunting for Cuban oil. (Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images)

While it’s been the subject of rumor, gossip and misinformation for the last several years, this time it’s real: drilling off the north shore of Cuba is scheduled to begin November 1. Six wells are planned to be drilled with this rig by the various international companies who own exploration rights off the north shore of the island.

…Spanish energy company Repsol and its partners are now bringing the Chinese-built [drilling rig] Scarabeo 9 to a site off Cuba’s northwest coast, where it aims to drill as soon as November at a depth of more than 5,500 feet, deeper than the blown-out well that spewed 5 million barrels of crude into the Gulf last summer.

The [rig's] journey to Cuba will take two months, and once it arrives it will be put into operation almost immediately, said the official, who asked not to be identified. It will be used first as an exploratory well for a consortium led by Spanish oil giant Repsol YPF, which drilled the only offshore well in Cuba in 2004 and said at the time it had found hydrocarbons. [Source.]

The current trade embargo requires the operation contain less than 10% U.S. content. Of the major components, only the blowout preventer (BOP) is an American product (Cameron International).

Scarabeo 9 under construction in Chinese shipyard.

A high-level delegation of U.S. oil-spill experts traveled to Havana this week to meet with Cuban officials. It has urged the Obama administration to cooperate with the Castro government on a joint-response plan that could avert environmental catastrophe for both countries. …

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a long-time Castro foe, criticized the delegation’s visit, saying it gave “credibility” to Cuba’s attempt to become “the oil tycoons of the Caribbean.” Other lawmakers have also urged retaliatory measures against Repsol.

Repsol, the operator of the first Cuban drilling venture, is a large Spanish oil company with operations in 29 countries, including a $10 billion investment in Iran. It is also a lessee in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

… Bromwich confirmed that federal officials have talked with Spain’s Repsol about its plans to drill off Cuba later this year but haven’t made a deal to ensure that work meets the same standards it would if it were in U.S. waters.

Repsol has said it plans to begin drilling a well as soon as this summer in Cuban waters. Other international oil companies have lined up drilling afterward, including Malaysia’s Petronas and India’s ONGC Videsh. Cuban officials have said five wells could be drilled in the country’s Gulf of Mexico territory. [Source.]

In U.S. waters, drilling is regulated by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management &etc. (BOEMRE), an agency of the Department of the Interior led by Director Michael Bromwich. U.S. Federal jurisdiction ends 45 miles from Florida’s shores. This drilling will take place 60 miles from Florida.

While Cuban oil officials will manage and regulate the operations, the engineers and crews doing the actually drilling will be composed of experienced international oil workers, said [Lee Hunt, representing the International Association of Drilling Contractors, part of the U.S. delegation]. An Italian firm, Saipem, will be operating the rig, and Repsol’s partners include Statoil, a Norwegian company that he and others praise as a world leader in safe deepwater drilling. [Source.]

“Cuban oil officials will manage and regulate the operations…” Oh, joy.

To all you NIMBYs in Florida and elsewhere, you can rest well with the knowledge that the best of Cuban industrial technology will brought to bear in overseeing this operation.

Cross-posted at stevemaley.com.


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