Rig arrives in Cuban waters with US approval

A new drilling rig is set to begin work off the coast of Cuba after its owners took unprecedented steps to reassure US safety authorities.

Spanish oil producer, Repsol, invited the US Coast Guard and other environmental safety authorities to inspect the mostly Chinese-built Scarabeo-9 drilling platform before it departed from the West Indies for its mooring point off the coast of Cuba.

Although the rig will operate within the Cuban Exclusive Economic Zone, and therefore is not required to meet US standards, Repsol was highly sensitive to fall-out from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  With Scarabeo rig operating only 70 miles off the Florida Keys, the company is not prepared to take any risks.

The rig itself was built in China, using less than 10% of US-made components (thus avoiding any embargo issues).  However, Repsol has reassured the US authorities that it will operated the rig to the latest rigorous US standards and, although not providing an official, legal endorsement, the company received a positive review from the Coast Guard and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.  The authorities paid particular attention to the platform's blowout preventor, a component which was identified as one of the major elements in the Deepwater Horizon failure.

Scarabeo-9 will be drilling at a depth of around 6,500 feet below sea level; one thousand feet deeper than the Deepwater Horizon rig.