July 19 (UPI) -- Amendments to a work plan for Cuban oil assets open the door for drilling exploration wells by the first half of next year, Australia's Melbana Energy said.
Melbana is one of the few Western oil companies, and the only one listed on the Australian exchange, with a footprint in Cuba. The national oil company of Cuba, CUPET, extended its contract last year for early exploration efforts in Block 9 by eight months to November 2017. At Melbana's request, the Cuban company amended the work program again because of data assessments.
"The amended Block 9 production sharing contract work program approved by CUPET is now aligned with Melbana's stated ambition to accelerate drilling of up to two exploration wells in the highly prospective Block 9," CEO Peter Stickland said in a statement.
Working in its Block 9 onshore acreage, the company last year estimated its Cuban portfolio contains 637 million barrels of prospective recoverable reserves. The company said in June that a site visit revealed its Alameda and Zapato well sites were encouraging, accessible and on pace for drilling during the first half of next year.
Combined, the company said those two assets hold a combined 201 million barrels of recoverable oil. In a recent presentation, Melbana said the low-lying land for Block 9 made it a promising prospect and there are "multiple" drilling rigs already in operation.
The company estimated its drilling campaign for 2018 would cost about $30 million at the high end and it was now in the process of a detailed contractor evaluation. It had about $2.7 million in cash on hand as of March 31.
The company has personnel on the ground in Cuba working to engage consultant firms there on the future potential.