Repsol YPF SA, which is scheduled to begin exploratory drilling in Cuban waters, has offered US agencies an opportunity to inspect the vessel and its equipment before it arrives at the well site, US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director Michael R. Bromwich said.
But a witness on a second panel testifying at the same US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing suggested that the US government should work equally hard to engage national oil companies that also are scheduled to begin exploring for crude oil offshore Cuba.
“The international oil companies that are operating in Cuba have experience in deep water,” explained Jorge R. Piñon, a visiting research fellow at the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University’s Latin American and Caribbean Centre.
“The issue is that we haven’t made any effort to approach them, but have solely focused on Repsol and have asked it questions about proprietary information such as the pressure of the reservoir”.
Piñon mentioned Malaysia’s Petronas, which is developing another project in the area in a partnership with Russia’s OAO Gazprom. “As soon as the rig drilling the well for Repsol finishes there, it’s going to move next door and start working for them”.
Bromwich noted that while BSEE doesn’t have regulatory authority over Repsol’s Cuban activities, the Spanish multinational began providing information about its drilling plans and spill response capabilities to the US Department of the Interior in February.
“In our numerous communications with Repsol, we have made clear that we expect it to adhere to industry and international environmental, health, and safety standards and to have adequate prevention, mitigation, and remediation systems in place in the event of an incident,” he told the committee.
“Repsol officials have stated publicly that in carrying out its exploratory drilling plans in Cuban waters, it will adhere to US regulations and the highest industry standards.”
Repsol also offered US agencies the opportunity to board the Saipem’s Scarabeo 9 ultradeepwater 6th generation semisubmersible drilling rig that it intends to use before it enters Cuban waters to inspect the rig and its drilling equipment and to review relevant documentation, Bromwich said.
BSEE and the US Coast Guard welcomed the opportunity and plan to coordinate a joint visit at that time, he indicated.