HAVANA, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- Cuba is looking to relaunch and attract foreign investment to its oil industry, particularly in offshore explorations and drilling, to reduce its dependence on oil imports, said a top official on Wednesday.
"Almost half of the country's energy demands are covered by domestic production. Our main goal is to increase that percentage with the help of foreign companies in the near future," said Roberto Suarez, deputy general director of the island's Cuba Petrol Union (CUPET) at the opening of a business forum on the nation's oil and gas industry.
Suarez said CUPET produces around 4 million tons of equivalent oil a year which is used mainly at old fuel electricity plants, while 97 percent of the island' s gas production is used for electricity generation and house consumption.
The "Cuba Oil and Gas Summit 2017" is held until Friday with the presence of oil industry officials from 70 companies of 15 countries.
The Cuban official stated the island hasn't made any major oil discoveries since 2002 and the state company has been able to maintain a stable production due to the constant optimization in the oil fields that are being exploited.
"Our company's fundamental oil exploration activities lie along what we call the North Belt, which is the area where recent discoveries have been made," he added.
This zone is about 200 kilometers long, east of Havana, up to the Hicacos Peninsula.
"We' re open to foreign investment in the zone divided in 45 blocks in order to intensify shallow water and on shore explorations," he said.
Australia's Melbana Energy Ltd, one of the few Western companies working in Cuba, said it identified potential oil reserves in Block 9 of this zone that combine for an estimated 8.2 billion barrels. The company's best estimate is that it could recover about 395 million of those barrels.
Russia's oil giant, Rosneft, is also set to start studies and explorations in the area.
The state-owned company is also looking for partners to introduce new technologies to its industry and continue deep-water exploration in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Gulf of Mexico.
Experts indicated that this 112,000 kilometer area has estimated reserves equivalent to 22,000 million oil barrels.
Since 1999, CUPET along with foreign companies have unsuccessfully tried four times to find oil this area and currently a fifth deep-water exploration attempt is about to start.
Last December, Chinese company BGP started a series of marine seismic analysis to identify areas of potential deep-water exploration in Cuba's EEZ.
Cuba's energy system has depended heavily since 2003 on subsidized oil from Venezuela, which reached about 120,000 barrels a day.
However, the deep economic crisis in that South American nation has reduced the oil shipments to around 55,000 barrels a day and Cuba has to look for other alternatives.