Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Melbana Energy, one of the few Western companies with an established footprint in Cuba, said its best estimate of reserves there improved more than 10 percent.
The company, which has headquarters in Australia, said an independent assessment found the best estimate for oil in place for the Block 9 prospect on the northern coast of Cuba was 15.7 billion barrels of oil, a 24 percent increase from the previous estimate. The forecast for recoverable prospective reserves increased 13 percent to 718 million barrels.
Melbana declared Tuesday that Block 9, where it's gearing up for a pioneering program, is relatively under-explored and has a substantial opportunity for growth.
"This report demonstrates the tremendous opportunity for Melbana to make a significant discovery in Cuba," CEO Robert Zammit said in a statement. "We continue to focus on progressing our drilling readiness and the farmout of this premium acreage and look forward to updating shareholders of our progress as our commercial discussions progress."
The Cuban Ministry of Science and Technology gave Melbana the environmental license for planned activities at its Alameda-1 exploration well on the north shore of Cuba in April.
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.