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A new platform will be used to further explore the waters to the north of Cuba's central region for oil, state oil company Cubapetroleo (CUPET) said Saturday.

The Norwegian oil rig, Songa Mercur, will start to drill the well L-01X in the next few days under a contract signed with Russian company Zarubezhneft, according to a release from the company published in the official Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma.

"As usual, this platform received inspections by CUPET experts and Cuban regulatory authorities to ensure that the operations are conducted with maximum safety and without damage to the environment," it said.

The new rig replaces the oil platform Scarabeo 9, which left for North Africa on Nov. 14. The operation is scheduled to last approximately six months.

The well, with a depth of 6,500 meters, will be the deepest so far drilled in Cuba.

The oil rig was under inspection to verify that less than 10 percent of its components are manufactured in the United States, a restriction imposed by the U.S. as part of its economic sanctions against the island.

Cuba estimates about 20 billion barrels of oil reserves in its exclusive economic zone at the Gulf of Mexico, but the U.S Geologic Service considers a more modest figure of about 5 billion to 9 billion barrels.

Source: Xinhua

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