CNPC signs framework agreement with Cuba

Exploration / Development
Eric Watkins
Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2 — China National Petroleum Corp., eyeing competition from a variety of other nations, has signed a framework agreement with Cuba’s state-owned Cubapetroleo SA (Cupet) on expanded cooperation in oil and gas development.

The agreement, signed by CNPC Vice-Pres. Wang Dongjin and Cupet Pres. Fidel Rivero Prieto, involves the provision of engineering and technical services along with related equipment for oil and gas field development.

The agreement with CNPC is the latest in Cuba’s efforts to create interest in the development of its offshore oil reserves, which the government recently estimated at some 20 billion bbl of oil in its portion of the Gulf of Mexico.

Cuba’s estimate is considerably higher than the recent US Geological Survey’s estimate of up to 9 billion bbl of oil reserves, but Cupet officials claim their data is more reliable.

“We have more data. I’m almost certain that if [the USGS] asks for all the data we have, [its estimate] is going to grow considerably,” Cupet exploration manager Rafael Tenreyro Perez said in October.

Tenreyro said Cupet’s estimate was based largely on a comparison with oil production from similar geological structures in the US and Mexican areas of the Gulf of Mexico.

Cuba’s offshore geology is similar to that of Mexico’s giant Cantarell oil field in the Bay of Campeche, Tenreyo said.

Industry observers have cast doubt on the Cubans’ claims, saying they would like to see the findings verified by independent experts. Still, a number of oil companies have expressed interest in exploring Cuban waters.

Last month, Russia’s ambassador to Cuba, Mijail Kamynin, speaking ahead of a visit by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Nov. 27, said that Russian oil companies could soon begin exploring for oil off Cuba.

Kamynin, who said Russian oil companies have “concrete projects” for drilling offshore Cuba, added that Russian firms also would like to help build storage tanks for crude oil, modernize pipelines, and help with Venezuelan efforts to refurbish the Soviet-built Cienfuegos refinery.

In October, Brazil’s Petroleo Brasileiro, building on agreements signed with Cuba earlier this year, announced plans to explore Block 37 in the Florida Straits, located in 500-1,600 m of water between Havana and Matanzas and 90-95 miles south of Key West, Fla. (OGJ Online, Oct. 31, 2008).

Contact Eric Watkins at



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