|Volume 4, issue #11 - Friday, June 11, 1999|
07-05-99 Cuba predicted crude oil production on the Caribbean island would rise 19 % in 1999 to 2 mm tpy, up from 1.68 mm tpy last year, as part of its drive to solve a national fuel shortage.
State media also quoted Cuban officials as estimating natural gas production this year would rise to a record level of 500 mm cm.
Without giving year-to-date figures, the officials attributed the anticipated increases to more wells coming on- line, and better technology.
The officials added that in 1998, Cuba's oil output only covered 22 % of national needs, and foreign companies were responsible for 30 % of production.
Cuba has suffered chronic oil shortage problems since the collapse of cheap supply-lines from the Soviet bloc at the start of the decade. At that time the Soviet Union was shipping 13 mm tpy of crude to Cuba from its Black Sea ports to supplement local production of around 1 mm tpy.
With that arrangement long gone, the cash-strapped communist government has been forced to import large quantities of crude at a heavy cost in precious hard currency.
The fuel shortage has been one of the most telling and visible aspects of Cuba's economic crisis this decade, which the government calls the Special Period.
According to Cuban authorities, about 300 wells are currently producing or exploring in the western provinces of Matanzas and Havana. The island's production is mostly heavy, high-sulphur crude, which is used to generate 30 % of Cuba's electricity, fuel cement factories and make some lubricants.
About 15 oil companies from Canada, Britain, France, Sweden, Germany and Spain currently operate in Cuba. U.S. firms are prohibited from dealing here due to Washington's 37-year economic embargo on the island.