KEY WEST (CBSMiami/Herald) – New oil drilling off Cuba’s waters means an oil spill may be just months away from the Florida Keys, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) computer models.

“(According to the models) The further west from the Keys, the greater the potential exposure of the Keys and western Florida to oil reaching the U.S. Coast,” said Lee Hunt, president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors.

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The threat to the Keys does not appear to be immediate.

New oil drilling expected to begin offshore of Cuba at the end of the summer is much farther away from Key West than a well that came up dry in May.

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Industry watchers are wary, though, because the drilling sites’ Gulf of Mexico locations pose more of an environmental threat to the Keys and other coastal areas of the U.S. than did that May well, which was only 70 miles away from Key West in the Florida Straits.

Cuba believes its coastal waters in the Florida Straits and the Gulf of Mexico contain up to 20 billion barrels of oil. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates a much more conservative 5 billion barrels.

Drilling for oil there is particularly risky because wells are believed to be up to 6,000 feet below the ocean. The British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, the worst in U.S. history, happened at 5,000 feet below the ocean surface.

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Read the full story in The Miami Herald.