Data confirms Cuban oil prospects

June 12 (UPI) — New data taken from an oil reservoir on the northern coast of Cuba confirm the assessment of a highly prospective site, Australia’s Melbana Energy announced.

Melbana, which changed its name from MEO Australia to reflect a Caribbean flair, said a new study of the reserves in the Zapato prospect inside so-called Block 9 confirm its interpretation of a 71 million barrel reservoir.

CEO Robert Zammit said in a statement Tuesday that work so far proves the region has significant potential for commercial developments.

“We are progressing [with]environmental approvals and permitting to allow us to drill Zapato,” he said in a statement. “Several of our potential farm-in partners have expressed strong interest in Zapato and we remain flexible in our forward plans.”

Melbana in April completed a tender for a drilling rig that could be deployed in Cuba later this year. Bids are under review while it looks for outside partners to buy into its Cuban portfolio.

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.

Its Alameda-1 prospect near the northern coast of Cuba is targeting a reservoir with more than 2.5 billion barrels of oil in place. The company estimates it would cost at least $20 million to drill two wells in Cuba, higher than previous estimates.

The Cuban election committee nominated First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel on April 18 to serve as the next Cuban president, succeeding Raul Castro to become the first person in decades outside the Castro family to lead the island nation.

In a swearing-in ceremony, Díaz-Canel suggested he’d stick close to the Castro legacy with Communist Party ideals. Under the new government, 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.