<a href=Zarubezhneft” height=”222″ src=”https://www.offshore-technology.com/wp-content/uploads/static-progressive/757px-Songa_Mercur_3.jpg” style=”padding: 10px” title=”Exploration rig Songa Mercur” width=”280″ />

Zarubezhneft, a Russian state-controlled oil company, is set to launch its oil drilling campaign off the coast of Cuba.

Exploration rig Songa Mercur, owned-by Songa Offshore, has already reached the Cuban territorial waters and is expected to start drilling at the L Block, about 330km away from Havana area, reports RT.com.

A delegation of officials from Russia and Cuba, including the chairman of Russia’s Audit Chamber Sergey Stepashin, Russia’s ambassador to Cuba Mikhail Kamyshin and Zarubezhneft CEO Nikolay Brunich has visited the rig to review the proposed drilling works.

While visiting the rig, Sergey Stepashin said: "We hope to see the first results of drilling by May and hope we would see "big oil"".

For the drilling campaign, which is expected to cost about $126m, the company had formed a joint venture with Cuba’s state-owned Cubapetroleo oil company.

Geological surveys have indicated a possible nine billion barrels offshore Cuba, but recent events have thwarted oil production from being carried out in the area.

Earlier this month, Communist Party newspaper Granma reported that a well drilled off western Cuba by Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA had been plugged because it "did not offer possibilities of commercial exploitation."

This was the third unsuccessful well drilled this year in Cuban waters.

Last week, China-built offshore drilling rig Scarabeo 9 reported its third exploration failure, forcing the company to stop all its operations in the region.

Image: Songa Mercur semisubmersible rig is capable of drilling in water depths of 1,365 metres. Photo courtesy of Timleomyers.