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July 23, 2018updated 24 Jul 2018 11:03am

Cyprus vows to safeguard ExxonMobil offshore oil and gas search

Cypriot Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis has announced that the government will do everything necessary to ensure ExxonMobil’s offshore oil and gas search runs smoothly, despite threats from Turkey.

By Talal Husseini

Cypriot Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis has announced that the government will do everything necessary to ensure ExxonMobil’s offshore oil and gas search runs smoothly, despite threats from Turkey.

The US oil giant, together with Qatar Petroleum, holds an exploration licence for Block 10 located in the south-west of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Lakkotrypis added that the dispute with Turkey should not hinder the government’s energy programme.

He said: “The procedures for Exxon to obtain the necessary permits are proceeding as planned and two wells will be carried out in Q4. What’s important is that we progress according to our timeframe and planning.”

Asked whether the US Air Force will be deployed to monitor ExxonMobil’s drilling activity, as reported in Cyprus’s largest daily newspaper the Phileleftheros, he added: “We take all necessary measures so that the two drills will proceed without any unforeseen developments. That is why you see that we are diplomatically more active as the time for these drills gets closer.”

An ExxonMobil drillship is expected to arrive in September to kick off the exploration.

GlobalData upstream analyst Luis Pereira told Offshore Technology: “Earlier this year, Italian energy company ENI announced the Calypso gas discovery in Block 6, which is forecast to contain six to eight trillion cubic feet of gas.

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“Meanwhile, the Aphrodite gas field discovered in 2011 has an estimated four to five trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas. Recently, there have been talks between Cyprus and Egypt to bring the production from the Aphrodite field to Egypt by pipeline.”

Turkey disrupts offshore oil and gas search

The Turkish Government in Ankara has consistently warned multinational oil companies against drilling offshore of Cyprus while the territorial dispute remains unresolved.

Turkish warships blocked the passage of a drillship commissioned by ENI back in February, which planned to drill in Block 3 of the EEZ, located east of the island.

At the time, European Council President Donald Tusk told Turkey to “avoid threats or actions against any EU member and to commit to good-neighbourly relations, peaceful settlement of disputes and respect of territorial sovereignty”.

However, Lakkotrypis remained adamant that the two issues are not linked to the latest offshore oil and gas search.

He said: “We continue with our plans, that cannot be changed because of contractual obligations and, as the President of the Republic said a few days ago, under no circumstances should developments in the Cyprus problem affect our energy programme.”

Cyprus has thus far carried out three licensing rounds, awarding exploration licences for eight of the offshore blocks in the EEZ.

Turkey, which occupies 37% of the island’s territory, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus’s EEZ and claims that Turkish Cypriots also own the island’s resources.

In response, the Cypriot Government agreed that energy wealth will be shared among ‘all Cypriots’ once a solution is reached, adding that the division should not impede its right to explore oil and gas.

A UN envoy will travel to the island to see if a new round of peace talks after the Swiss Summit last July proved unsuccessful.

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