Fresh delay for Scarabeo-9

Waiting on delivery: Cuba

The arrival of Chinese-built semi-submersible drilling rig Scarabeo-9 in Cuban waters has been delayed until at least the second quarter of the year, according to reports.

Sources told Reuters construction of the rig was progressing more slowly than planned, with the newbuild not likely to arrive in Cuba until late June or early July.

As Upstream reported last week, the semisub has been towed from China’s CIMC Raffles yard to Singapore’s Keppel Fels for completion, at an additional cost of between $70 million and $100 million.

A number of international explorers, including Spain's Repsol YPF, are eager to explore Cuba's offshore play.

Havana has claimed it may be sitting on as much as 20 billion barrels of oil. The US Geological Survey has pegged this at a more modest 4.6 billion barrels and 10 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The Scarabeo-9, which belongs to Saipem, was being built at Yantai CIMC Raffles shipyard in China, but work was hampered by a series of delays. In October, Saipem sent the rig to the Keppel Fels shipyard in Singapore for completion.

As it was being towed to Singapore, a water leak was discovered that required repair, the company official said.

Another source, who asked not to be named, clarified the reason for the delay.

“The vessel was floating heavier on one side due to water raining into the tanks from the top that was not been drained out,” the source said.

The Scarabeo-9, a hi-tech semisub capable of working in water depths up to 3600 metres, was originally due for delivery in September 2009.

A Repsol-led consortium that includes Norway's Statoil and ONGC Videsh, a unit of India's Oil & Natural Gas Corporation, has contracted the rig first and will drill one or two exploration wells off Cuba's northwestern coast, then pass it on to other companies with leases for offshore blocks.

Repsol drilled the only previous exploration well in Cuba's part of the Gulf of Mexico in 2004 and said it found hydrocarbons, but has not yet sunk another well.

It was widely believed to have had problems finding another rig that did not violate the long-standing US trade embargo against Cuba, which limits the amount of American technology that can be used.

Malaysia's state oil company Petronas and its partner Gazprom Neft of Russia are slated to get the rig after Repsol, then it will go to ONGC Videsh, which has two blocks of its own.

Other companies with Cuban offshore leases include Brazil's Petrobras, Venezuela's PDVSA, PetroVietnam and Angola's Sonangol.

Russian oil company Zarubezhneft has two near shore blocks and an agreement with PetroVietnam to participate in exploration of its three blocks.

No US companies are involved in Cuba because they are prohibited by the US embargo against the island.


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