Total and ENI seek to expand Cyprus oil and gas search
US shows public display of political support for ExxonMobil drill in block 10
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.
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.