Cuban oil driller seeing interest from potential partners

Australian energy company Melbana said it's identified a number of promising prospects at an inland basin near the northern Cuban coast.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Dec. 4, 2017 at 5:48 AM
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Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Australian energy company Melbana, one of the few with an established footprint in Cuba, said it was vetting potential drilling partners for Block 9 operations.

The company aims to tap the Alameda-1 prospect, which it said is in an area that has more than 630 million recoverable barrels of oil at the high end. The company said Monday it's identified a number oil and gas opportunities in its broader Block 9 production sharing contract with drilling slated for the middle of next year.

The company estimates it would cost at least $10 million to drill two wells in Cuba. Its partnership agreement with Petro Australis Ltd. fell apart because of the lack of approval from regulatory authorities, leaving Melbana with a 100 percent stake in Cuban operations and without a partner that would carry 40 percent of the drilling costs.

"Melbana is receiving significant farm-in interest for Block 9, with a data room open in its Melbourne office," the company said in a statement.

Cuba produces around 45,000 barrels per day on average, according to Melbana.

Melbana is one of the few Western energy companies with a Cuban portfolio, and the only one listed on the Australian stock exchange. The company in November chose a drilling director, Heriberto Vasco Mufioz, whose experience with Cuban and international oil companies spans more than 40 years.

The company continues to work unabated as the U.S. government under President Donald Trump unravels the détente with Cuba started by his predecessor, Barack Obama. The U.S. government in November said it was tightening sanctions on Cuban economic activity to steer revenue away from military, intelligence and security services.

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