Category Archives: Cuba

Zarubezhneft Getting Ready for Drilling Offshore Cuba

Russia’s Zarubezhneft is getting ready to begin its oil and gas exploration campaign offshore Cuba.

Songa Mecur, the semi-submersible rig to be used for the campaign, is expected to arrive to Trinidad next week, where it will undergo preparations work before setting sail to Cuban waters.

The drilling program is expected to start in November.

Zarubezhneft in 2009 signed production sharing contracts with the communist country’s oil company Cubapetroleo for two offshore blocks located in the Cuban sector of the Gulf of Mexico. In the upcoming exploration campaign the company hopes to unlock hydrocarbons hidden in Cuba’s offshore Block L.

Cuba estimates that its offshore fields hold approximately 20 billion barrels of oil, which could, once unlocked provide a major boost to its economy.

In May this year, the Spanish oil company, Repsol, after a failed attempt to discover oil in a well offshore Cuba, decided to abandon any further offshore drilling plans in the Caribbean nation’s waters.

Earlier this week,  Cubapetróleo (Cupet) informed the local media that Catoche 1X well drilling offshore Cuba was unsuccessful. The well was drilled by a consortium established by Malaysia’s Petronas and Russia’s Gazprom. The consortium then released the Scarabeo 9 rig to Venezuela’s PDVSA which will try it’s luck at the Cabo de San Antonio 1x offshore well.

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Petronas, PDVSA Searching for Oil Offshore Cuba

Cuba’s state oil company, Cubapetróleo (Cupet) sent a statement to the country’s media saying that a company from Malaysia, a subsidiary of Petronas, had started drilling operations at the Catoche 1X well offshore Cuba.

The Malaysian company is using the Scarabeo 9, a 6th generation semi submersible drilling rig, for the operation. The Catoche 1X well was spudded on May 24. The rig had been under a contract with the Spanish oil major Repsol, who, following the disappointing results of its recent well, decided to scrap plans for further drilling off the Caribean country’s coast.

Cupet has said that Repsol’s failure to find oil doesn’t mean that the oil isn’t there and has added that the area has “a high potential for discovery of new hydrocarbon reserves, according to geological studies performed.”

Cuba estimates that its offshore fields hold approximately 20 billion barrels of oil, which could, once unlocked provide a major boost to the communist country’s economy.

Furthermore, the Cupet’s announcement says that once the drilling of Catoche 1X is completed the Scarabeo 9 will move to the Cabo de San Antonio 1x well, operated by Venezuela’s PDVSA.

Scarabeo 9, capable of operating in water depths of up to 3,600 meters, was built by Singapore’s Keppel specifically for drilling operations in Cuban waters.

Due to the United States trading embargo against Cuba, Repsol had to come up with a rig with almost no U.S. made parts in it, and according to Reuters, the only U.S. manufactured part on the Scarabeo 9 rig is a blowout preventer, a part that malfunctioned and caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

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Repsol Drills Duster Offshore Cuba

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Spanish oil titan Repsol on Friday announced it would plug and abandon an exploration well offshore Cuba.

Repsol’s well in Cuba’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) was drilled by the Scarabeo 9, a 6th generation semi submersible drilling rig.

The Saipem-owned rig failed to find hydrocarbons, and Repsol’s spokesman told BusinesWeek that the result is disappointing but not unusual saying that every four of five offshore wells turn out to be a dry hole.

He said that the Spanish company was analyzing the data collected before making any further decisions.

Scarabeo 9, capable of operating in water depths of up to 3,600 meters, was built by Singapore’s Keppel specifically for this campaign.

Due to the United States trading embargo against Cuba, Repsol had to come up with a rig with almost no U.S. made parts in it, and according to Reuters, the only U.S. manufactured part on the Scarabeo 9 rig is a blowout preventer, a part that malfunctioned and caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

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Cuban well progressing slowly

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News Wires ,
16 April 2012 01:36 GMT

Drilling of the first well in the long-awaited exploration of Cuba‘s offshore oilfields has gone slower than expected, but should be completed by mid-May, according to reports.

Reuters quoted sources close to the project as saying drillers had encountered harder rock beneath the sea bed than expected, which combined with other minor problems, had slowed progress.

When drilling began on 1 February Spanish oil giant Repsol YPF said drilling of the deep-water well was anticipated to take about 60 days to complete.

A Repsol spokesman could not confirm on Friday the projected mid-May completion date, when contacted by Reuters.

This well, which is in 1706 metres of water off the communist-run island’s north-west coast, is the first of five currently planned, Cuban officials say.

Cuba has said it could have 20 billion barrels in its offshore fields. It needs the oil to end its dependence on Venezuela, which ships it 114,000 barrels a day.

Cancer-stricken Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is Cuba’s top ally, but island leaders worry that the oil flow could stop if he dies or loses his bid for re-election later this year, Reuters reported.

The US Geological Survey estimated Cuba may have 5 billion barrels of oil and 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas offshore, but its study covered only part of the Cuban zone.

Reuters cited various unnamed sources as saying Repsol had been encouraged by its findings thus far, but the company has said results will not be known until the well is finished and studies are conducted.

Oil experts say it will take three years or more to bring the Cuban oil on line, if enough is found to justify production, according to Reuters.

After Repsol completes its well, it will hand the Scarabeo 9 drilling rig over to Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas and its Russian partner Gazprom Neft for a second well.

Then it will go back to Repsol, which has a consortium with Norway’s Statoil and ONGC Videsh, a unit of India’s ONGC, for another well, Reuters reported.

The massive Chinese-built rig, which is more than 32 kilometres offshore but visible from Havana, is being leased from owner Saipem, a unit of Italian oil company Eni.

Due to the longstanding US trade embargo against Cuba, no American oil companies are involved in the project.

Repsol drilled a well in Cuban waters in 2004 and found oil, but said it was not commercially viable. Technological limitations imposed by the embargo made it difficult to find another rig for work in Cuba, industry sources have said.

The project has raised environmental concerns in the US, particularly in Florida, which is 145 kilometres north of Cuba and fears its shores could be damaged if there is an accident similar to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

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APNewsBreak: US oil spill plan prepares for Cuba >>> “show me the Plan”

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By JENNIFER KAY, Associated Press – 2 days ago

MIAMI (AP) — If a future oil spill in the Caribbean Sea threatens American shores, a new federal plan obtained by The Associated Press would hinge on cooperation from neighboring foreign governments. Now that Cuba is the neighbor drilling for oil, cooperation is hard to guarantee.

The International Offshore Response Plan draws on lessons from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and was created to stop offshore oil spills as close to their source as possible, even in foreign waters. The plan dated Jan. 30 has not been released publicly. The AP obtained a copy through a Freedom of Information Act request.

After crude oil stained Gulf Coast beaches, state and federal officials are eager to head off even the perception of oil spreading toward the coral reefs, beaches and fishing that generate tens of billions of tourist dollars for Florida alone.

The plan comes as Spanish oil company Repsol YPF conducts exploratory drilling in Cuban waters and the Bahamas considers similar development for next year. Complicating any oil spill response in the Florida Straits, though, is the half-century of tension between the U.S. and its communist neighbor 90 miles south of Florida.

Under the plan dated Jan. 30, the Coast Guard’s Miami-based 7th District would take the lead in responding to a spill affecting U.S. waters, which includes Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The district’s operations cover 15,000 miles of coastline and share borders with 34 foreign countries and territories.

Repsol’s operations in Cuban waters are not subject to U.S. authority, but the company allowed U.S. officials to inspect its rig and review its own oil spill response plan.

“We’ve demonstrated already and we continue to demonstrate that we’re a safe, responsible operator doing all in its power to carry out a transparent and safe operation,” Respol spokesman Kristian Rix said Thursday.

Rix declined to elaborate on the company’s response plans, but he did say two minor recommendations made by U.S. officials inspecting the rig were immediately put in place.

If an oil spill began in Cuban waters, Cuba would be responsible for any spill cleanup and efforts to prevent damage to the U.S., but the Coast Guard would respond as close as possible.

Though a 50-year-old embargo bars most American companies from conducting business with Cuba and limits communication between the two governments, the Coast Guard and private response teams have licenses from the U.S. government to work with Cuba and its partners if a disaster arises.

The U.S. and Cuba have joined Mexico, the Bahamas and Jamaica since November in multilateral discussions about how the countries would notify each other about offshore drilling problems, said Capt. John Slaughter, chief of planning, readiness, and response for the 7th District.

He said channels do exist for U.S. and Cuban officials to communicate about spills, including the Caribbean Island Oil Pollution Response and Cooperation Plan. That’s a nonbinding agreement, though, so the Coast Guard has begun training crews already monitoring the Cuban coastline for drug and migrant smuggling to keep an eye out for problems on the Repsol rig.

William Reilly, co-chairman of the national commission on the Deepwater Horizon spill and head of the EPA during President George H.W. Bush, said the Coast Guard generated goodwill in Cuba by notifying its government of potential risks to the island during the 2010 spill.

It would be hard for the Cuban government to keep any spill secret if Repsol and other private companies were responding, Slaughter said.

“Even if we assume the darkest of dark and that the Cuban government wouldn’t notify us, we’d hear through industry chatter and talk. If the companies were notified, I’m quite confident we would get a phone call before they fly out their assets,” he said.

Funding for a U.S. response to a foreign spill would come from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund managed by the Coast Guard. As of Feb. 29, that fund contained $2.4 billion.

The plan covers many lessons learned from the 2010 spill, like maintaining a roster of “vessels of opportunity” for hire and making sure the ships that are skimming and burning oil offshore can store or treat oily water for extended periods of time. Other tactics, like laying boom, have been adapted for the strong Gulf Stream current flowing through the Florida Straits.

What the plan doesn’t cover is the research on how an oil spill might behave in the straits, said Florida International University professor John Proni, who’s leading a group of university and federal researchers studying U.S. readiness for oil spills.

Among the unknowns are the effect of dispersants on corals and mangroves, how oil travels in the major currents, the toxicity of Cuban and how to determine whether oil washing ashore in the U.S. came from Cuba.

“My view is that the Coast Guard has developed a good plan but it’s based on existing information,” so it’s incomplete, he said.

Former Amoco Oil Latin America president Jorge Pinon, now an oil expert at the University of Texas, said the Coast Guard had a solid plan.

He cautioned against recent congressional legislation introduced by one of South Florida’s three Cuban-American representatives to curtail drilling off Cuba by sanctioning those who help them do it. The bill is sponsored by Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami.

Instead, Pinon said the U.S. needs to formalize agreements with Cuba about who would be in command if an oil well blew, because the U.S. has more resources available.

“The issue is not to stop the spill from reaching Florida waters, the issue is capping the well and shutting it down,” Pinon said. “We can play defense all we want, but we don’t want to play defense, we want to play offense, we want to cap the well.”

Reilly said the U.S. still needs to issue permits for equipment in the U.S. that would be needed if a Cuban well blew, Reilly said. For example, if a blowout occurred, the company would have to get a capping stack from Scotland, which could take up to a week.

“We know from Macondo that a great deal can happen in a week,” Reilly said. “I’ve been very concerned about getting the sanctions interpreted in a way that permits us to exercise some common sense.”

Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Cuba drills for oil, but U.S. unprepared for spill

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By William Booth, Published: March 1

As energy companies from Spain, Russia and Malaysia line up to drill for oil in Cuban waters 60 miles from the Florida Keys, U.S. agencies are struggling to cobble together emergency plans to protect fragile reefs, sandy beaches and a multibillion-dollar tourism industry in the event of a spill.

Drawing up contingency plans to confront a possible spill is much more difficult because of the economic embargo against Cuba. U.S. law bars most American companies — including oil services and spill containment contractors — from conducting business with the communist island. The embargo, now entering its 50th year, also limits direct government-to-government talks.

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“We need to figure out what we can do to inflict maximum pain, maximum punishment, to bleed Repsol of whatever resources they may have if there’s a potential for a spill that would affect the U.S. coast,” Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) told in January a congressional subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Coast Guard.

An unusual coalition of U.S. environmentalists and oil industry executives have joined forces to push the White House to treat the threat of a spill seriously, while tamping down the anti-Castro rhetoric.

“There is no point in opposing drilling in Cuba. They are drilling. And so now we should be working together to prevent disaster,” said Daniel Whittle, Cuba program director of the Environmental Defense Fund, who has been brokering meetings between Cuban and U.S. officials.

Environmentalists applauded the announcement last week of an agreement between the United States and Mexico to allow for joint inspection of rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico and the establishment of a common set of safety protocols between the two countries.

Nothing approaching this exists with the Cubans.

Because of the embargo, the talks between Cubans, Repsol and the Coast Guard are taking place in the Bahamas and Curacao — not Havana or Miami — under the auspices of the U.N. International Maritime Organization, paid for by charitable donations from environmental groups and oil industry associations.

A single Florida company is licensed to deliver oil dispersants to Havana. But there are no U.S. aircraft with contracts or permission to fly over Cuban waters. The current plan is to retrofit and deploy aging crop dusters from Cuban farms to dump the dispersants.

Obstacles to a cleanup

Repsol operates leases in U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico and has a staff of 300 based in Houston. But because of the embargo, none of the Houston staff is permitted to have anything to do with the Repsol operation in Cuba. Any assistance would have to come from Madrid.

Because of the embargo, and to protect Repsol from economic sanctions, no more than 10 percent of the components on the Scarabeo 9 drilling rig may be manufactured in the United States.

One of those components is the blowout preventer, a vital piece of safety equipment manufactured by National Oilwell Varco in Houston — whose employees cannot service the equipment while it is in Cuban waters.

If a blowout occurred, Repsol would have to await delivery of a capping stack, which would have to travel from Scotland to Cuba and then out to the rig. Experts predict it would take a week at minimum.

Cleanup crews arriving from the United States would be allowed to skim oil from the water and collect surplus oil gushing from the rig, but they’d have to take it someplace. The question is where? The U.S. tankers can’t enter Cuban territorial waters, and if they do, they are prohibited from returning to the United States for six months. The recovered oil would belong to Cuba, and so it can’t travel to the United States.

Modeling of ocean currents by the USGS suggests a spill at the Repsol exploratory well site probably would not affect the Florida Keys but would be swept north by the powerful flow of the Gulf Stream and then begin to deposit oil on beaches from Miami to North Carolina.

“If anything went really wrong out there, I believe there would be a quick political response,” said William K. Reilly, co-chairman of the national commission on the Deepwater spill and head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George H.W. Bush.

But a lot can happen in a couple of days, Reilly said. “It’s time to face reality. It is, completely, in the interest of the United States that we get this right.”

“This is a disaster waiting to happen, and the Obama administration has abdicated its role in protecting our environment and national security by allowing this plan to move forward,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Ros-Lehtinen and her colleagues sponsored legislation to deny visas to anyone who helps the Cubans advance their oil drilling plans. They have also sought to punish Repsol.

“We need to figure out what we can do to inflict maximum pain, maximum punishment, to bleed Repsol of whatever resources they may have if there’s a potential for a spill that would affect the U.S. coast,” Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) told in January a congressional subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Coast Guard.

An unusual coalition of U.S. environmentalists and oil industry executives have joined forces to push the White House to treat the threat of a spill seriously, while tamping down the anti-Castro rhetoric.

“There is no point in opposing drilling in Cuba. They are drilling. And so now we should be working together to prevent disaster,” said Daniel Whittle, Cuba program director of the Environmental Defense Fund, who has been brokering meetings between Cuban and U.S. officials.

Environmentalists applauded the announcement last week of an agreement between the United States and Mexico to allow for joint inspection of rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico and the establishment of a common set of safety protocols between the two countries.

Nothing approaching this exists with the Cubans.

Because of the embargo, the talks between Cubans, Repsol and the Coast Guard are taking place in the Bahamas and Curacao — not Havana or Miami — under the auspices of the U.N. International Maritime Organization, paid for by charitable donations from environmental groups and oil industry associations.

A single Florida company is licensed to deliver oil dispersants to Havana. But there are no U.S. aircraft with contracts or permission to fly over Cuban waters. The current plan is to retrofit and deploy aging crop dusters from Cuban farms to dump the dispersants.

Obstacles to a cleanup

Repsol operates leases in U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico and has a staff of 300 based in Houston. But because of the embargo, none of the Houston staff is permitted to have anything to do with the Repsol operation in Cuba. Any assistance would have to come from Madrid.

Because of the embargo, and to protect Repsol from economic sanctions, no more than 10 percent of the components on the Scarabeo 9 drilling rig may be manufactured in the United States.

One of those components is the blowout preventer, a vital piece of safety equipment manufactured by National Oilwell Varco in Houston — whose employees cannot service the equipment while it is in Cuban waters.

If a blowout occurred, Repsol would have to await delivery of a capping stack, which would have to travel from Scotland to Cuba and then out to the rig. Experts predict it would take a week at minimum.

Cleanup crews arriving from the United States would be allowed to skim oil from the water and collect surplus oil gushing from the rig, but they’d have to take it someplace. The question is where? The U.S. tankers can’t enter Cuban territorial waters, and if they do, they are prohibited from returning to the United States for six months. The recovered oil would belong to Cuba, and so it can’t travel to the United States.

Modeling of ocean currents by the USGS suggests a spill at the Repsol exploratory well site probably would not affect the Florida Keys but would be swept north by the powerful flow of the Gulf Stream and then begin to deposit oil on beaches from Miami to North Carolina.

“If anything went really wrong out there, I believe there would be a quick political response,” said William K. Reilly, co-chairman of the national commission on the Deepwater spill and head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George H.W. Bush.

But a lot can happen in a couple of days, Reilly said. “It’s time to face reality. It is, completely, in the interest of the United States that we get this right.”

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Rig Hired by Spain’s Repsol Arrives off Cuba

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HAVANA – A deepwater oil rig hired by Spain’s Repsol-YPF for use in Cuba’s Gulf waters has arrived off the island’s coast and will be put into operation shortly.

The Scarabeo-9 platform was about 10 miles off northern Cuba Thursday and could already be seen from the coast.

The rig, built in China and Singapore and initially due to arrive in the summer of 2011, is heading west to an area off the coast of the city of Mariel, an industry official told Efe, adding that exploratory drilling is expected to begin soon.

The platform will be used to determine the crude potential of Cuba’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which is located in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico and estimated to hold up to 9 billion barrels of petroleum in more than a score of commercially significant prospects.

The EEZ covers some 112,000 sq. kilometers (43,240 sq. miles) and is divided into 59 blocks of 2,000 sq. kilometers (772 sq. miles) each, 22 of which have been awarded to foreign companies such as Spain’s Repsol, Venezuela’s PDVSA and PetroVietnam.

Eight onshore blocks also have been awarded to Cuban state oil firm Cupet and five others to foreign companies, according to official figures.

Cuba’s oil and gas output has stabilized over the past five years at a level of 4 million tons of oil equivalent, according to the Basic Industry Ministry.

Last year, several U.S. House Democratic and Republican leaders urged Repsol, which also has leases to drill in U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico, to drop plans to explore for oil in Cuban waters and warned the company of possible legal action in the United States.

In a letter sent to Repsol Chairman and CEO Antonio Brufau, 34 House lawmakers said any exploratory drilling the oil company conducts in Cuban waters “will provide direct financial benefit to the Castro dictatorship.”

U.S. officials also have expressed concerns about environmental risks considering the drilling site’s proximity to U.S. soil, just 95 miles from the Florida Keys, although Repsol has pledged to adhere to U.S. regulations and the highest industry standards in its drilling in Cuban territorial waters.

The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard inspected the Scarabeo-9 last week and found it to be in compliance with U.S. and international standards governing deepwater drilling.

BSEE director Michael Bromwich told the House and Senate last year that U.S. authorities had witnessed a spill response exercise carried out at Repsol’s office in Trinidad and that during that simulation Repsol technicians demonstrated their ability to respond successfully to a hypothetical spill.

Concerns about Cuba’s plans to tap its offshore oil reserves have grown in the wake of the devastating 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Cuba is hoping crude discoveries will provide a boost to the communist-ruled island’s ailing economy and make it less dependent on imported oil from close ally Venezuela. EFE

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What if… Is The US Prepared For Cuban Oil Rigs?

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By John Konrad On January 10, 2012

Will the United States be prepared if Cuba’s new offshore rigs spill oil into US waters?

To address this question, personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) completed a review today of the offshore oil rig Scarabeo 9 following an invitation from the vessel’s operator, Repsol. While aboard the Scarabeo 9, personnel reviewed vessel construction, drilling equipment, and safety systems  in anticipation of the rig’s upcoming drilling operations in Cuba’s exclusive economic zone in the coming months.

According to the Coast Guard, the  review is “consistent with U.S. efforts to minimize the possibility of a major oil spill, which would hurt U.S. economic and environmental interests”. While US regulators exercise no legal or regulatory authority over the rig, the review compared the vessel with applicable international safety and security standards as well as U.S. standards for drilling units operating in the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. U.S. personnel found the vessel to generally comply with existing international and U.S. standards by which Repsol has pledged to abide.

In anticipation of an increase in drilling activities in the Caribbean Basin and Gulf of Mexico, the United States is participating in multilateral discussions with the Cuba as well as other countries nearby including Bahamas, Jamaica and Mexico on issues including, drilling safety and oil spill preparedness. The Coast Guard views the cooperation as providing valuable information on each country’s spill response plans and capabilities. The Coast Guard is also working to update contingency plans for spills on international waters that could potentially affect U.S. waters and coastline.

In addition to international cooperation, the USCG and BSEE have involved more than 80 federal, state, local, and maritime industry representatives in spill response plans. The group held a table top exercise on Nov. 18, 2011 to address a hypothetical international spill off the coast of Florida. The exercise allowed participants to discuss sensitive environmental areas, planning strategies, likely issues and response coordination principles that responders would face, as well as gather additional information to use in future planning.

The USCG notes the review conducted today does not confer any form of certification or endorsement under U.S. or international law.

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