HAVANA (AP) — A Norwegian-owned platform arrived in waters off Cuba's north-central coast for exploratory drilling by the Russian oil company Zarubezhneft, authorities said Saturday, renewing the island's search for petroleum after three failed wells this year.
Drilling is to begin "in the coming days" and take six months, according to a notice published by the Communist Party newspaper Granma. The depth of the project was given as 21,300 feet (6,500 meters).
State-run oil company Cubapetroleo said in the announcement that the Songa Mercur rig, owned by Songa Offshore of Norway, was inspected to make sure it contains less than 10 percent U.S.-made parts. That allows the companies involved in the drilling to avoid sanctions under the 50-year-old U.S. embargo against Cuba.
The exploration block in question, near the gleaming beaches of a major tourist resort, is considered less promising than offshore areas to the west where earlier this year a superdeep-water platform drilled three wells deemed commercially nonviable.
The Scarabeo-9, a huge semisubmersible rig owned by Italy's Saipem, left Cuban waters last month after sinking the three dud wells, and analysts said it could be years before drilling resumed in those deep-water blocks.