(Updated throughout to add additional details.)
By Santiago Perez and Tennille Tracy
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Spanish oil firm Repsol YPF SA (REP.MC) said Friday that an exploratory well in Cuban waters wasn't successful and will be capped.
In February, Repsol initiated deep-water exploration drilling about 50 kilometers north of Havana as part of its global exploration operations. Repsol's drilling efforts represented the beginning of Cuba's push to develop its offshore oil resources, in part to wean itself off imports from Venezuela.
"The well was dry," said Repsol spokesman Kristian Rix. "Geologists are evaluating how we move forward."
Repsol resumed exploration in the area after it failed to find exploitable oil in 2004. The U.S. Geological Survey has said there could be 5 billion barrels of untapped oil off the Cuban coast.
Cuba's efforts to develop its offshore oil resources have presented a thorny problem for U.S. regulators. If an oil spill were to occur, a decades-long embargo against Cuba would prevent U.S. companies from responding without first getting special permission from the U.S. government.
The U.S. government has handed out some exemptions under the sanctions, but the U.S. drilling industry and even some environmental groups have urged the Obama administration to provide more blanket approvals so that a full-scale response could be launched quickly.
The concern is that an oil spill in Cuban waters would most likely affect the U.S. coastline, providing an incentive for U.S. regulators to make sure an out-of-control well is capped as quickly as possible.
The Repsol well was much closer to Florida than any other well in the region. U.S. authorities previously inspected Repsol's Scarabeo 9 drilling rig off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago and said the vessel complied with existing international and U.S. standards.
U.S. regulators have never expressed doubt over Repsol's ability to drill a well safely.
The Spanish company is operating the rig in partnership with Norway's Statoil (STO) and a unit of India's Oil & Natural Gas Corp. (500312.BY).
-By Santiago Perez and Tennille Tracy, Dow Jones Newswires; +34-618 528 681; firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 18, 2012 17:01 ET (21:01 GMT)
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