Eight energy giants mull Cyprus gas exploration

Eight energy giants mull Cyprus gas exploration

NICOSIA - Agence France-Presse
Eight energy giants mull Cyprus gas exploration

A picture released by the offical Cypriot Press Information Office (PIO) on November 21, 2011, shows the Noble's "Homer Ferrington" platform , where exploration drilling for hydrocarbons is taking place

Eight major energy firms have expressed interest in drilling for oil and gas off the coast of Greek Cyprus, the government has said.

Greek Cypriot Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis said July 22 that there had been “strong interest from big companies” in obtaining rights to drill off the Mediterranean island, which hopes to become a regional energy player.

Ahead of a deadline on July 22, eight companies made expressions of interest in rights to three blocks close to Egyptian waters, said Lakkotrypis. The firms’ names will be revealed on July 27, he said.

Licenses would let firms explore in waters near Egypt’s Zohr field, where Italian energy giant ENI last August discovered the “largest ever” offshore natural gas field in the Mediterranean.

Officials from Italy’s ENI and France’s Total have met with President Nicos Anastasiades in recent weeks to discuss exploring the blocks. The Cypriot government said on July 22 that it would appoint a team to negotiate contracts with the winning companies. U.S. firm Noble Energy made the first gas find off Cyprus in 2011. The Aphrodite field is thought to contain over 125 billion cubic meters of gas.

ENI’s Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi has said exploratory drilling off Cyprus’ southern shore will “for sure” begin next year. Greek Cyprus planned to build a liquefied natural gas plant that would allow exports by ship to Asia and Europe, but the reserves confirmed so far are insufficient to make that feasible.

Greek Cyprus and energy-starved Egypt are looking into the possibility of transferring gas from the Aphrodite field to Egypt via an undersea pipeline.   

Greek Cyprus hopes to begin exporting gas and possibly oil by 2022. Nicosia has ruled out the possibility of an Israeli pipeline to Turkey via the Cyprus island before the island’s four-decade division is resolved and ties with Ankara are normalized.

The United Nations said on July 21 that it was concerned the failed coup attempt in Turkey could dampen prospects for Cyprus’ peace process aimed at reunifying the island.

U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide said however there was no evidence that Ankara had changed its supportive position on the Cyprus negotiations in the wake of the failed coup attempt.

“We have all been rather concerned about the recent developments in Turkey,” Eide told reporters after meeting Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on July 21, according to AFP.

“I think there is a shared understanding that this is yet another example of the international environment not always developing in a favorable mood.”

Eide said his team was monitoring events in Turkey closely.