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Cuban oil program accelerating

Australian energy company Melbana says conditions are good for drilling.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Conditions on the ground in Cuba are supportive of an oil drilling campaign starting early next year, Australian energy company Melbana says. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/7f75fe0f9b41795778be6711e88c2192/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Conditions on the ground in Cuba are supportive of an oil drilling campaign starting early next year, Australian energy company Melbana says. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

MELBOURNE, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- A Cuban-focused oil company said it was taking a closer look at the business climate there with the goal of accelerating its drilling program next year.

Melbana, a company known formerly as MEO Australia, said it had a team on the ground in Cuba coordinating with regulators and international service providers to verify the requirements and the access to local contractors available for a developing work program.

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"So far, these investigations suggest that good quality equipment and contractors are available for drilling in Block 9 in a reasonable time period," the company said in a statement.

The national oil company of Cuba, CUPET, extended its contract for early exploration efforts in an onshore area called Block 9 by eight months to November 2017.

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Through the end of September, Melbana, one of the few Western companies working in Cuba, said it identified reservoirs in Block 9 that combine for an estimated 8.2 billion barrels of oil in place. The company's best estimate is that it could recover about 395 million of those barrels.

Melbana said it was working under the terms of a strategy announced by CUPET to accelerate oil exploration in Cuba, where the Australian company estimates about 45,000 barrels of oil are produced per day. The company estimates Cuban programs have a competitive operating cost of around $7 per barrel of oil.

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"We are working towards accelerating drilling in Block 9 and we are on track to have one or more well proposals ready by the first quarter of 2017," CEO and Managing Director Peter Stickland said in a statement.

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A thaw in relations between former Cold War foes the United States and Cuba began in 2014. Melbana said its established position in Cuba gives it a head-start on tapping the oil potential as diplomatic relations improve.

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