The United States and Cuba have signed an agreement to team up on preventing, containing and cleaning up oil spills in their respective areas of the Gulf of Mexico, as part of a wider effort to sign as many cooperation deals as possible before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The agreement involves the development of joint action plans for a disaster scenario, and training of personnel, but the point of the effort might be questionable since Trump would be able to reverse the deals when he takes up office. Still, according to sources quoted by Reuters, this and a number of other U.S.-Cuban deals have been devised and signed in a bid to make it more difficult for the next President to return bilateral relations to their former state.
The Gulf of Mexico and its marine ecosystems were put in the spotlight after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, prompting a regulatory rush to tighten safety rules in the area. Although this cannot extend to Cuba, and although the country is not yet an oil producer, drilling is taking place around the island.
In this context, the fresh deal would ensure that U.S. agencies would be able to take part in the containment and cleaning up of any potential spills coming from Cuba, whose northern coast is just 90 miles from Florida. Of course, this would only happen if Trump doesn’t make good on his promise to tear up all cooperation deals with the island if Havana fails to makes further political and economic concessions.
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Last month, Cuba’s state-owned oil company Cupet said that this year will see a round of tenders for offshore oil and gas blocks, both shallow and deepwater. This is the first oil and gas auction in Cuba since 2012, when the prospective bidders, which included Repsol, Statoil, Petronas, Gazprom Neft, PDVSA, and India’s ONGC, failed to strike economically viable hydrocarbon reserves.
The new round of bids comes at a time when Cuba’s relations with ally Venezuela are becoming strained, with oil imports from the South American producer dropping, resulting in power shortages on the island.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.