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Russian drilling project headed for Cuba

05th July 2012

Moscow based company, Zarubezchneft, send Soviet-built, Norwegian-owned drill to Cuban Waters

Songa Mercur is currently on its way from Malaysia to Trinidad
Songa Mercur is currently on its way from Malaysia to Trinidad

A new Russian drilling project is headed for Cuba as state owned Moscow company, Zarubezchneft, send hired rig to probe undersea oil fields. The rig was hired from Songa Offshore SE, Oslo, for $88 million. According to Songa Offshore the loan “covers the use of the Songa Mercur for Zarubezhneft's upcoming drilling campaign offshore Cuba.” Songa offshore said that the rig would be moved from its position in Malaysia on 1 July 2012 and remain in Trinidad at a standby rate until drilling in Cuba commences in November 2012.

The rig was designed by Friede & Goldman (F&G 9500 Enhanced Pacesetter) and built at the Vyborg Shipyard, Russia. The drill is fitted with two GE 752 traction motor mud pumps and five caterpillar generators made by US company Halliburton. Jorge Piñon, an expert on Cuban oil exploration at the University of Texas, has told Alaskan Dispatch that this will probably leave Zarubezchneft in violation of the US-Cuba Embargos. US trade sanctions against Cuba limit the amount of US technology permitted in Cuban territory to 10 per cent. 

Many speculate that the US has no power to prevent Zarubezhneft’s possible violation of the sanctions. Piñon told Alaskan dispatch: “Do you think that Zarubezhneft is going to invite the US Coast Guard and the Interior Department to board [the Songa Mercur]? How then is [the US] going to validate whether the Songa Mercur meets the embargo regulations?”

The Songa Mercur project is the second recent Russian project in Cuba, as Gazprom Zeft recently took over drill Scarabeo 9 from Spanish company Repsol. Unlike Songa Mercur, Scarabeo 9 is specifically designed to comply with embargo regulations.

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