Russia's Zarubezhneft suspends search for oil in Cuba

A Norwegian-owned drilling platform will depart Cuba for Vietnam this week, after six months of exploration that so far has failed to yield any oil, official media in Havana reported on Tuesday.

The state-run Agencia de Informacion National (AIN) said the drilling work in Cuba will be suspended because of unspecified "geological complications," and the start this month of the hurricane season, which runs in the Caribbean through the end of November.

The drilling operation with the platform called Songa Mercur was taking place near the central Cuban province of Ciego de Avila, about 600 kilometers (370 miles) east of Havana.

A new round of drilling is expected to get underway early next year, AIN reported.

AIN reported that the Norwegian platform, which has been used by the Russian firm Zarubezhneft to search for oil off Cuba's coast, will depart on Thursday for Vietnam.

Zarubezhneft has been drilling the communist island's deepest offshore well using the Norwegian semi-submersible platform, with cash-strapped Cuba desperate to tap its potential offshore oil wealth.

Oil exploration has been seen as crucial for Havana, which produces nearly half its oil from wells on land and in shallow water.

Cuba currently imports about 100,000 barrels of oil each day, under very favorable terms, from its longtime ally Venezuela.

Some studies have estimated that there may be between five and nine billion barrels of crude in ocean waters off the Cuban coast.

Officials in Havana say however that they have reason to believe the amount could be as high as 20 billion -- enough to provide energy sufficiency and much needed revenue for the communist island.