Cuba said Spanish energy major Repsol's unsuccessful attempt to find oil at a well in the island's territorial waters does not mean the death knell for prospects in the region, where a Malaysian firm now is conducting exploratory drilling.

Cuban state oil firm Cupet said the island's Exclusive Economic Zone, a 112,000-square-kilometer (43,240-square-mile) area in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, has "high potential for the discovery of new hydrocarbon reserves based on geological studies."

The lack of results at the first well Repsol drilled with the Scarabeo-9 rig "in no way cancels out this area's prospects," Cupet said in a statement that was read on state television.

Repsol said May 18 that the Jagüey-1X exploratory well, the first to be drilled in Cuba's EEZ, had turned up dry.

Following that failure, Repsol CEO Antonio Brufau said in late May that the company was considering abandoning exploration off the coast of the Communist-ruled island.

Since May 24, Malaysian company PC Gulf, with support from Russian partner Gazprom Neft, has been using the Scarabeo-9 to drill a new well in waters located off the coast of the western Cuban province of Pinar del Rio.

Once that well has been drilled, the rig will be taken to a spot off the Cape of San Antonio - Cuba's westernmost point - for use by Venezuela state oil giant PDVSA, according to the official notice.

Cuba's EEZ comprises 59 blocks of approximately 2,000 sq. kilometers (772 sq. miles) each, 22 of which have been awarded to foreign oil companies.

The Caribbean island says the zone could hold as much as 20 billion barrels of crude, while other estimates put the EEZ's reserves at between 5-9 billion barrels.

Cuban oil production has remained unchanged at some 4 million tons annually for the past five years.

Oil-rich Venezuela, cash-strapped Cuba's main ally, provides the Communist-ruled island with an additional supply of more than 100,000 barrels per day of subsidized crude and derivatives in exchange for services, mainly in the health-care, education and sports sectors. EFE