News and Facts about Cuba

Satellite Images Show First Glimpse of Cuba’s Offshore Drilling Rig in Florida Straits


Satellite Images Show First Glimpse of Cuba's Offshore Drilling Rig in
Florida Straits
By Chris Sweeney Tue., Apr. 10 2012 at 5:00 AM
Categories: Environment

Earlier this year, Spanish oil giant Repsol YPF announced that a massive
drilling rig had started operating in "ultra-deep water" in the Straits
of Florida, somewhere between Cuba and the Keys. One of the more
problematic aspects of the operation is the dearth of information about
where the rig is actually located.

But new images from the West Virginia-based nonprofit SkyTruth show that
the rig is about 17 miles off the coast of Havana.

In the picture below, the bright white spot accompanied by yellow text
is thought to be the Scarabeo 9 drilling rig. The two white dots
positioned next to it might be vessels, SkyTruth John Amos
says. That tiny orange speck northwest of the rig is a small oil slick
reported by the U.S. Coast Guard last Wednesday.

Amos says that the small oil slick, about 2.5 miles from the drilling
rig, is run-of-the-mill pollution and shouldn't alarm anyone. What's
notable, however, is that the Coast Guard made a point of documenting
and reporting the slick.

"It is interesting that they conducted an overflight for that," Amos
says. "I expect that's just the Coast Guard putting down their marker
and making it known that they're keeping a close eye on this rig."

Drilling in deep water is a risky venture. Remember the BP catastrophe
in the Gulf? The lack of dialogue between Cuba and the U.S. definitely
heightens the risk of an environmental catastrophe. Amos says only about
15 percent of the companies that responded to the BP spill are licensed
to do business with Cuba.

"Any oil response company that wanted to do business in Cuban waters
would need a special exemption from the State Department to do so," Amos
says. "Companies have been applying to get that exemption in advance.
You obviously don't want to be going through that process in the midst
of an emergency."

Hopefully the rig operates flawlessly, nothing explodes, and there's no
need for anyone to respond to anything. Still, a contingency plan
involving both the U.S. and Cuba would seem logical.

Amos says the group will continue to use satellite imagery to monitor
daily the waters around the rig for signs of pollution or spills, as it
does for the Gulf and waters around the world.

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