The Miami Herald reported: Cuba is expected to begin drilling offshore for oil and gas as soon as next year with equipment that will go deeper than the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, industry experts say. The Spanish energy company, Repsol, which drilled an exploratory well in 2004 off the coast near Havana, has contracted to drill the first of several exploratory wells with a semi-submersible rig that is expected to arrive in Cuba at the end of the year, said Jorge Piñon, an energy expert and visiting research fellow at the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. He said the rig is expected to drill down 5,600 feet in an area about 22 miles north of Havana and 65 miles south of the Marquesas Keys. The development comes as 20 Cuban scientists joined their American and Mexican counterparts at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota this week to finalize a long-term marine research and conservation plan for the three countries. Luis Alberto Barreras Cañizo, who led the Cuban delegation as a representative of Cubas Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, confirmed the plans for exploration. Cuba needs to find its oil, its a resource Cuba needs, he told the Bradenton Herald in an interview. Environmentalists suggested the prospect of rigs just 45 miles from Floridas coastline could intensify pressure for the Obama administration to engage in talks with its Cold War antagonist to prevent ecological damage.