Florida has long fought to prevent oil drilling anywhere near its white sandy beaches. But as the state continues to deal with oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill washing up on its shores, it faces a new threat: deepwater drilling in nearby Cuban waters.
Maria Ritter, a spokeswoman for Spanish oil company Repsol YPF SA, said it plans to drill off Cuba, about 60 miles south of Key West, Fla., early next year. If successful, this would likely kick off a spate of exploration. Only one deepwater well has been drilled in Cuban waters, by Repsol in 2004. The effort found oil but not enough to justify commercial development.
Since then, the U.S. Geological Survey has said there could be a substantial amount of untapped oil off the Cuban coast, whetting the appetite of several global oil companies that have signed exploration leases.
U.S. companies won’t participate because of a longstanding trade embargo against Cuba. Repsol plans to use a floating drilling rig being refurbished in a Chinese shipyard, similar to the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP PLC that caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in April. Almost all pa