HAVANA TIMES — Kazakhstan and Cuba have signed an agreement whereby the Central Asian republic offers to sell the island crude oil and help in the onshore and offshore search for the valuable hydrocarbon.
The agreement was reached on April 2, just after the arrival in Havana of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in his first ever visit to Cuba. It was signed by Energy ministers Kanat Bozumbayev and Alfredo López Valdés, noted the Astana Times.
“Today with Mr. Valdés we have signed a memorandum on joint actions in the spheres of the oil and gas industry, the exploration of oil deposits in the coastal zone of Cuba, and the possible supply of Kazakh oil to a Cuban refinery,” Bozumbayev told The Times.
“Like other Latin American countries, Cuba is seriously engaged in scientific developments in order to compensate for the energy deficit. In some Latin American countries, the share of renewable energy reaches 90 percent. Today, we discussed this topic during the meeting. Cuba conducts major scientific research to increase the use of renewable energy sources,” said the president of Astana EXPO 2017, Akhmetzhan Yessimov, a member of the delegation.
In Kazakhstan this week, the deputy director of the Oil and Gas Institute, Akbar Tukayev, admitted to “a certain skepticism.” He questioned the need for the offer, pointing out that Cuba “consumes only 8 million tons of oil a year and has stable relations with Venezuela.”
Venezuela accounts for 80 percent of Cuba’s oil supply, which it furnishes at subsidized prices, Tukayev said. The rest comes from Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil and other countries.
The Venezuelan oil, purchased under highly favorable undisclosed terms, depends on the continuing of Nicolas Maduro in the presidency as the opposition has promised to either cut the deliveries to the island or demand a renegotiation more favorable to Venezuelan national interests.
In his opinion, Cuba’s interest in oil cooperation with Kazakhstan can be explained by Havana’s desire to diversify its circle of suppliers, and also to procure new types of oil products, besides those obtained from Venezuelan crude.
“Thus, the potential volume of supply from Kazakhstan will be no more than 5,000 barrels per day, which is achieved with just a few oil tankers per year,” the expert said.
Kazakhstan produced 79.5 million tons of oil in 2015. Production estimates for 2016 were recently revised down from 77 million tons to 74 million.
“The main risks that Kazakhstan may face in exporting [crude to Cuba] are the distance between the two countries and Cuba’s solvency,” Tukayev told the Centrasia News Agency. “However, Havana’s interest in Kazakh oil will reduce the risks for our country,” he added.
Kazakhstan’s other competitors include Russiaís Rosneft and the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), which signed agreements in 2014 that would expand production along Cuba’s northern coast. Companies that have pursued exploration activities in Cuba in the past include Brazil’s Petrobras, Spain’s Repsol, Malaysia’s Petronas, Russia’s Zarubezhneft, and Venezuela’s Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA).