Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The new head of Australian energy company Melbana said he'd direct a drive to capitalize on New Zealand assets and bring new partners to Cuban oil.
Melbana said Managing Director Peter Stickland tendered his immediate resignation, citing health reasons. Directing the company through a Cuban oil program that saw an about face in ties with Havana in Washington, Stickland stays on as a consultant and non-executive director of the board.
Executive Manager Robert Zammit, an Exxon Mobil veteran, now stands in effective Friday to steer the company in its New Zealand and Cuban operations.
Speaking on the change, Chairman Andrew Purcell said Zammit will direct the company as it picks up the drill bit in New Zealand this month.
"The company will also be focused on achieving a range of value adding activities, including a farmout of its Cuban project as well as a number of asset-based and corporate business development initiatives," he said in a statement.
Last month, Australian energy company Santos and French supermajor Total were said to have expressed interest in funding support for the Beehive prospect off the northern shores of Australia. Melbana said its counterparts have the option to take an 80 percent participating interest in a permit it says may be a "multi-billion barrel" prospect.
Melbana estimates its Pukatea prospect in New Zealand has, at its best estimate, 12.4 million barrels of oil equivalent, though the range extends to as much as 40 million barrels.
In Cuba, its Alameda-1 prospect near the northern coast of Cuba has more than 630 million recoverable barrels of oil at the high end.
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 last year 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 one of the few foreign energy companies with an established footprint in Cuba, where drilling is expected later this year.
Melbana changed its name last year from MEO Australia to adopt a moniker with a more Cuban flare.