By Anthony Harrup
Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Thursday that Mexico and Cuba have agreed to evaluate the possibility of Mexican state oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, participating in oil exploration projects in Cuba.
Calderon said in a message via his Twitter account that the two governments signed a non-binding letter of intention to evaluate the possibility. The letter was signed by Pemex's exploration and production unit, and Cuban state oil company Cupet.
The Energy Ministry said in a release that a workshop will be held in the near future in the Cuban capital Havana where Pemex will have the chance to analyze options for collaboration with its Cuban counterpart, either in projects currently being developed or in new areas of opportunity.
Mexican Energy Minister Jordy Herrera and Cuban Minister for Basic Industry Tomas Benitez also signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in a number of areas, including technology, training, research projects and strategic planning in oil, electricity, energy efficiency and renewables.
Calderon and other Mexican government officials are visiting Cuba and Haiti before traveling to Cartagena, Colombia, for this weekend's Summit of the Americas.
The presidential press office said the state visit to Cuba, at the invitation of Cuban President Raul Castro, sought to bolster relations between the two countries, increasing cooperation in trade and investment, energy, health, education and sport.
Pemex, which is among the world's largest oil companies, producing over 2.5 million barrels a day of crude oil, has limited experience abroad. Mexico nationalized its oil industry in 1938, and state-owned Pemex is the only producer of oil and gas in the country. The firm contracts out exploration and production work to private oil service companies, but keeps all rights to any oil or gas produced.
No private or foreign investment is allowed in Pemex under current law, although Pemex has about a 9.5% stake in Spanish oil company Repsol YPF SA (REPYY, REP.MC), and a joint-venture refinery with Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA, RSDA.LN, RDSB, RDSB.LN) in Deer Park, Texas.
In 2008, Pemex officials said they had turned down an offer by Brazilian state oil company Petrobras (PBR, PETR3.BR, PETR4.BR) to join it in a deep-water project on the U.S. side of the Gulf of Mexico, because of Mexico's restrictive energy laws. Pemex is exploring its own deep waters of the Gulf, but so far has no deep-water production.
-By Anthony Harrup, Dow Jones Newswires; 5255 5980-5176; firstname.lastname@example.org