HAVANA — A Chinese-made oil rig has arrived off Cuba and begin drilling, a spokesman for Spanish oil company Repsol YPF.
Spokesman Kristian Rix would neither confirm nor deny recent reports of delays as the Scarabeo-9 rig travels to the Caribbean island but he said the project has always been based on a window of time and things are still on schedule.
Repsol holds the rights to an exploration block off Cuba covering more than 1,700 square miles, according to its 2010 annual report. Earlier this year, it signed a contract with Italy's Saipem SpA to lease the Scarabeo-9 rig for drilling operations in Cuba.
According to geologic studies conducted by several institutions, some of them U.S.-based, Cuba's reserves in the Gulf of Mexico could be 5 billion to 9 billion barrels of crude.
The Cuban government has designated dozens of blocks in Gulf waters encompassing 43,200 square miles where private energy companies plan to drill deep-water test wells.
None of the companies are American, due to Washington's decades-old embargo banning most U.S. business dealings with the communist-governed island, although some U.S. firms have expressed interest in the past.