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Repsol asks US to inspect Cuban rig

By Clint Chan Tack and Sean Douglas Tuesday, December 13 2011

THE United States (US) Embassy in Port-of-Spain yesterday confirmed that US government officials will be coming later this month to participate in the inspection of the Scarabeo 9 oil rig when it stops in this country en route to Cuba where it will be involved in oil and gas exploration activities. The US Embassy said US officials have been invited by Spanish energy company Repsol YPF which is the client of the rig.

In a statement, the US Embassy said, “Repsol has informed the US government of its plans and invited US government officials to observe an emergency drill conducted in Trinidad related to contingency planning for the drilling.

“Repsol offered, and we accepted, the opportunity to embark the rig to inspect equipment and relevant documentation. Such actions are consistent with our ongoing efforts to minimise the possibility of a major oil spill, which would hurt US economic and environmental interests,” the Embassy continued.

Stressing that the US government is focused on protecting its environmental interests, the Embassy stated, “The drilling activity does not require US approvals and will be conducted, in large measure, by companies that do not operate in the United States.”

Repsol has energy interests in TT and it is believed that it requested the inspection take place here because the exercise could not be carried out in Cuba. Local Repsol officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Speaking with reporters prior to a sitting of the Senate, Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine said it was standard procedure for inspections of rigs to take place by representatives from stakeholder countries.

“Once a rig is entering into your country, before it enters your country it has to be inspected by officials from your country,” he said.

Ramnarine explained that if an oil rig was being shipped from the US to Trinidad, officials from his ministry would go to the US to ensure that “it is a sound rig and it does not comprise our environment or our own standards and regulations.”

While Ramnarine said he was not aware of the US sending officials to inspect Scarabeo 9, he was aware that “the Cubans will be sending people down here” and as the rig’s client, Repsol would have personnel involved in the inspection of the rig as well.

Asked whether the inspection of the rig in Trinidad could have a negative impact on this country’s relations with either Cuba or the US, Ramnarine replied, “Not really.”

In the case of Cuba, Ramnarine recalled that a delegation from the Energy Chamber went to Cuba to explore opportunities for energy services there. He said there is one TT company operating in Cuba’s energy sector and TT would be interested in having a deeper relationship with Cuba in that regard. However, officials at the Cuban Embassy declined to make any comments about Scarabeo 9.

Newsday reported yesterday that this rig is scheduled to arrive in this country on December 23 and will explore for oil and natural gas in deep waters off Cuba, 113 kilometres south of Key West, Florida.

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