Russia to Prospect for Oil in Cuba

HAVANA – The Russian and Cuban governments have signed four agreements for oil exploration and production on the Caribbean island, official media reported.

Under the accords, Russian state energy firm Zarubezhneft has been given permission to operate for 25 years in blocks located in the Cuban provinces of Matanzas, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara and Ciego de Avila, Cuban state television said.

Cuban Basic Industry Minister Yadira Garcia and Russian Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Ivan Materov attended the signing ceremony, which took place at Russia’s pavilion at the International Trade Fair in Havana, which got underway on Monday.

The deal represents the countries’ first bilateral oil agreement since the demise of the Soviet Union, which subsidized the Cuban economy for decades.

Spain’s Repsol-YPF, Norway’s Norsk Hydro, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Malaysia’s Petronas, Venezuela’s PDVSA, Vietnam’s PetroVietnam and Brazil’s Petrobras all have signed oil-exploration deals with Cuba’s communist government.

Cuban state oil firm Cuba Petroleo said last November that about 20 billion barrels could lie in the island’s offshore fields, while the U.S. Geological Survey has estimated a more modest total of between 4.6 billion and 9.3 billion barrels of recoverable crude.

Cuba currently imports from close ally Venezuela more than 90,000 barrels per day of crude oil – or about half the island’s needs – under preferential terms that allow the country to pay with medical, educational and sports services. EFE

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