To­tal and ENI seek to ex­pand Cyprus oil and gas search

US shows pub­lic dis­play of po­lit­i­cal sup­port for ExxonMo­bil drill in block 10

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - CYPRUS - By Char­lie Char­alam­bous

En­ergy gi­ants To­tal and Eni have sub­mit­ted a joint bid for an­other li­cense to ex­plore for oil and gas off­shore Cyprus de­spite warn­ings from Turkey, while Wash­ing­ton gives po­lit­i­cal back­ing to Ni­cosia.

In Oc­to­ber, Cyprus de­cided to in­vite France’s To­tal, Italy’s Eni and ExxonMo­bil to bid for un­claimed block 7 of its Ex­clu­sive Eco­nomic Zone (EEZ).

Only one bid was put for­ward for re­view.

“An ap­pli­ca­tion was re­ceived on Novem­ber 26, as part of the pro­ce­dure for a Hy­dro­car­bon Ex­plo­ration Li­cense for Block 7, by To­tal / Eni,” said an En­ergy Min­istry state­ment on Mon­day.

“In the com­ing days, the ap­pli­ca­tion will be ex­am­ined by the Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee, which will pre­pare an In­tro­duc­tory Re­port for the Min­is­ter for En­ergy. Sub­se­quently, the Min­is­ter will present a pro­posal to the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters, where the rel­e­vant de­ci­sions will be taken,” it added.

Last month, En­ergy Min­is­ter Ge­orge Lakkotrypis said that, due to its ge­ol­ogy, firms have ex­pressed an in­ter­est in block 7 and so it was de­cided to in­vite com­pa­nies, that al­ready have li­cences in neigh­bour­ing off­shore blocks, to ex­press an in­ter­est. He said the process would be sim­i­lar to the pre­vi­ous li­cens­ing round and would in­volve those com­pa­nies awarded li­censes in blocks 6 (ENI & To­tal), 8 (ENI), 10 (ExxonMo­bil/Qatar Pe­tro­leum) and 11 (To­tal & ENI) of Cyprus’ EEZ.

Ni­cosia de­cided to pro­ceed with ex­ploit­ing block 7 due to “very spe­cific ge­o­log­i­cal rea­sons” that have to do with pre­lim­i­nary a dis­cov­ery in block 6 of Cyprus’ EEZ, an­nounced by ENI in Fe­bru­ary.

ENI is the op­er­a­tor of Block 6 with a 50% par­tic­i­pa­tion in­ter­est and To­tal has the other 50%.

The Calypso field is con­sid­ered by ENI to be a promis­ing gas dis­cov­ery that con­firms the ex­ten­sion of the “Zohr like” play in the Cyprus blocks.

Turkey has re­acted an­grily to the de­ci­sion by Ni­cosia to in­vite en­ergy play­ers To­tal, ENI and ExxonMo­bil to ex­ploit block 7. A state­ment in Oc­to­ber by the Turk­ish For­eign Min­istry ad­vised: “com­pa­nies that might be in­ter­ested in par­tic­i­pat­ing in the ten­der to act with com­mon sense and to duly con­sider the re­al­i­ties on the ground”.

Ankara claims that an “im­por­tant seg­ment” of block 7 “re­mains within the outer lim­its of Turkey’s con­ti­nen­tal shelf in the East­ern Mediter­ranean”.

Turkey said it will con­tinue to take all the nec­es­sary mea­sures to pro­tect its rights and will not al­low any third party to con­duct ex­ploratory ac­tiv­i­ties for the de­vel­op­ment of hy­dro­car­bon fields in the re­gion.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan has also warned for­eign en­ergy com­pa­nies not to “over­step the mark” in dis­puted wa­ters off the coast of the di­vided is­land.

ExxonMo­bil drill

Ear­lier this month, ExxonMo­bil and Qatar Pe­tro­leum be­gan test drilling for hy­dro­car­bons off­shore Cyprus on 16 Novem­ber de­spite Turkey warn­ing in­ter­na­tional firms against such moves.

Wash­ing­ton’s sup­port for ExxonMo­bil’s oper­a­tions in Cyprus’ EEZ was high­lighted Thurs­day in a visit by US am­bas­sador Kath­leen Do­herty, to Block 10, where the Stena Ice­max plat­form is con­duct­ing drills.

En­ergy Min­is­ter Ge­orge Lakkotrypis and For­eign Min­is­ter Nikos Christodoulides vis­ited the drill­ship along with Do­herty and ExxonMo­bil Vice Chair­man Tris­tan Asprey.

The of­fi­cials were flown to the drill­ship aboard a he­li­copter char­tered by ExxonMo­bil for an in­spec­tion of the ves­sel and an ex­pla­na­tion of its ca­pa­bil­i­ties by its crew.

Christodoulides tweeted” “Hos­pi­tal­ity & de­tailed brief­ing on progress of on­go­ing ex­ploratory drill much ap­pre­ci­ated!”

And Lakkotrypis tweeted on his ac­count: “Very im­pres­sive oper­a­tions run by true pro­fes­sion­als. Best of luck with the drilling cam­paign.”

Mean­while, Greece buffered warn­ings by Er­do­gan over mar­itime bor­ders in the Aegean and Cyprus’ hy­dro­car­bons search, say­ing Turkey must act “re­spon­si­bly”.

“Turk­ish provo­ca­tions un­der­mine re­gional sta­bil­ity at a crit­i­cal junc­ture, demon­strat­ing the shak­i­ness of Turkey’s le­gal ar­gu­ments,” Greece’s For­eign Min­istry said.

“What­ever their dif­fer­ences, the other coun­tries of the East­ern Mediter­ranean rec­og­nize that en­ergy must be­come a bridge for di­a­logue and co­op­er­a­tion in our re­gion. In­stead of in­sist­ing on its threats and il­le­gal claims, Turkey ought to fol­low this re­spon­si­ble stance,” it added.

Ear­lier this week, Er­do­gan crit­i­cised Greece and Cyprus for what he de­scribed as their “reck­less be­hav­iour” in the Mediter­ranean which would “threaten them fore­most”.

Texas-based Noble En­ergy in 2011 made the first dis­cov­ery off Cyprus in the Aphrodite block es­ti­mated to con­tain around 4.5 tril­lion cu­bic feet of gas – it has yet to be com­mer­cialised.

The dis­cov­ery of nearby Egypt’s huge Zohr off­shore reser­voir in 2015 has stoked in­ter­est that Cypriot wa­ters hold the same riches.

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