July 2 (UPI) -- A window for drilling at an oil prospect near the northern shore of Cuba could open up as early as December, Australian energy company Melbana said.
The Cuban Ministry of Science and Technology gave Melbana Energy Ltd. the environmental license for planned activities at its Alameda-1 exploration well on the north shore of Cuba in April. The company is targeting a reservoir with more than 2.5 billion barrels of oil in place and the environmental license is part of the regulatory requirements needed before the company can start drilling.
The company by then had completed a tender for a drilling rig that could be deployed later this year
"A preferred contractor has been identified and discussions are continuing with the preferred drilling rig provider, which is an established local entity, with a drilling rig being identified and a drilling window nominated as notionally commencing in December 2018," the company stated.
Melbana is one of the few Western companies, and the only one listed on the Australian exchange, with a footprint in Cuba. It changed its name last year from MEO Australia to broadcast a Caribbean flair and said Monday it was considering a dual listing in London.
"Following recent marketing initiatives in the United Kingdom, a potential dual listing on the U.K.'s Alternative Investment Market is being actively considered, as it is clear there is strong U.K. investor interest in Cuba as an investment destination and in particular, Melbana's world-class portfolio," the company's statement read.
The company estimates it would cost at least $20 million to drill two wells in Cuba, higher than previous estimates. A share placement this year generated about $2.1 million in capital to use to fund operations in Cuba, as well as those closer to home at its Beehive prospect in New Zealand.
An agreement with Petro Australis Ltd. fell apart last year because of the lack of approval from regulatory authorities, leaving it with a 100 percent stake in Cuban operations and without a partner that would carry 40 percent of the drilling costs.