Motembo, Politically Strategic Oil for Cuba

Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — Rumors have been flying around these past few days about the discovery of good quality oil on Cuban soil. However, uncertainty at this time is great and journalism errors are multiplying every day.

The Australian company Meo Australia has said that it’s found a large oil deposit estimating that they could extract around 8 billion barrels; 400 million (5%) of which would be usable as fuel – with the possibility of being extracted using the latest technology or technology still being developed.

…resource potential of over 8 billion barrels of oil-in-place and nearly 400 million barrels of recoverable Prospective Resource.

That is to say, it’s not what Fernando Ravsberg and others claim: the 8 billion barrels are NOT Prospective Resources.

Oil reserves in Latin America.  In billions of barrels.
Oil reserves in Latin America. In billions of barrels.

So that you understand the difference:

  • A prospective resource of up to 8.2 billion barrels would make us one of the highest oil producing countries in Latin America, below Mexico and above Ecuador.
  • However, if we can classify all of the estimated 400 million barrels as proven resources (which is much more certain than the prospective resource estimate), it would be enough to meet our national oil demand for about 7 years, just scraping by.

Seven years, let’s say ten, without needing to buy oil would be a brief, but much needed break from the suffocation the Cuban economy has endured for decades, but that would be all.

On the other hand, it makes you wonder why the government is acting so slowly to confirm this piece of news. Increasing the feeling of mystery that shrouds this subject, the government newspaper Trabajadores published an article that it then took down, and Telesur did the same thing. Radio Havana Cuba has such a humble and concise note on their website as if we’d just discovered 55 gallons of oil and nothing more. And Cuba Petroleo, who will take part in extracting this oil deposit, hasn’t said anything so far.

Furthermore, some of the comments that have been made reveal the ambiguity of Peter Stickland’s words, CEO of the Australian company and a member of the European Association of Geoscientists & Engineers. Let’s look at what he said:

“While we have identified some thrilling possibilities in Block 9, we still haven’t made any discoveries. We expect that that may occur in one to two years.”

Recently, many phantom discoveries of large oil deposits on Cuban territory have been made. Last year, we found 20 billion barrels in the Gulf of Mexico and these were confirmed by the Cuban Government. The news was then forgotten when investors didn’t seem to be too interested.

The Motembo oil field might not give us a lot of oil, but it will play a very important political role. In 2018, Raul will leave the reins of power in a country left in a very fragile state; because it’s the end of a historic era, because of the crisis in Venezuela and because it’s the moment that so many of us have been waiting for to try and push for real change here in Cuba.

If cash and energy problems continue, the political apparatus created by the Castro brothers will have less chances of being able to sustain itself. However, if the succession of power is accompanied by an economic boom thanks to newly found oil, the general outlook will favor continuing on their legacy. Let’s remember that 2018 is exactly the year that MEO Australia says it will begin resource production.

On the other hand, leaving people with hope and distracted in times of crisis… well Raul knows that that’s even more precious than oil.


3 thoughts on “Motembo, Politically Strategic Oil for Cuba

  • It is noteworthy that at Santa Cruz del Norte, there flies one single none-Cuban flag – the maple leaf of Canada. Many of the “donkeys” along the coastline there have ceased nodding – maybe because they have run out of energy?

  • With oil prices at historic lows, the Cuban government will have a hard time finding investors for developing a high risk, high cost oil play. That oil will remain in the ground for years to come. Only when world oil prices rise significantly with the cost of extracting it be justified.

  • I remember all the hype around the “discovery” of oil in Cuban waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Six different drilling projects later and after hundreds of millions of foreign investment dollars wasted, no “prospective resource” oil was discovered in amounts necessary to mount a drilling operation. Call me a cynic but I think we should probably wait a while before we get too excited about this.

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