Mayabeque province remains epicenter of energy search

Cash-strapped Cuba looking for foreign investment

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 In this July 11, 2014, file photo, an oil well pump operates in Boca de Jaruco, Cuba.

MAYABEQUE, Cuba - With Venezuela in crisis and a drought that is raising food imports, Cuban officials are facing a liquidity shortage. Despite the low oil prices, they continue to be open to foreign investment for crude exploration.

There is hope in an area west of the of Boca de Jaruco,  officials said earlier this year. The former fishing village is at the mouth of the Rio de Jaruco, in the province of Mayabeque, where there is both oil and gas exploration ventures.

State oil companies, Cuba's Union Cuba Petroleo (CUPET) and Russia's Zarubezhnetf, drilled there in the 1980s and were reportedly working there to recover oil wells. Canada's Sherrit International is also active nearby at a gas processing plant. For years, the activity in the area has concerned Cuban oceanologists.

"Spills that are far from the coast, under normal conditions, could result in pollution in Florida ... spills on land could contaminate the Florida Keys and during hurricane conditions increase the risk of pollution increases to 92 percent," scientists Alina Gutierrez and Amaury Alvarez said in a study published in Cuba last year.

ABOUT CUPET: The state's oil company is divided into 41 other companies. Five of these are joint ventures with foreign companies such as China, Russia, Venezuela, Canada and Australia.

Their voices are not dissuading CUPET. After U.S. reported high crude oil inventories, oil prices continued to fall late October. Venezuelan crude fell to less than $45 per barrel. Cuba refines and resells some of it for cash.

Venezuela is part of Cuba's new Gulf of Mexico drilling campaign with Angola's Sonangol. 

"We will initiate a drilling campaign at the end of 2016 or the start of 2017," Osvaldo Lopez, Cupet's head of exploration, told Reuters late October.

Experts concluded that the prospects of offshore drilling explorations in Cuba were low after failed joint ventures with Brazil's Petrobas and Spain's Repsol, News Maritime reported in October.

Tourism is up 17 percent this year, but Cuba still doesn't have enough cash to take advantage of the new purchasing opportunities in the U.S. Near one of the most popular tourism destinations, Varadero, Cuba found oil in 1971.

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