Noble Energy will commence first drilling for natural gas off the coast of Cyprus in early 2012, according to Cyprus Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Antonis Paschalides.

Noble has a concession to explore for hydrocarbons in block 12, which is located south-east of Cyprus.

The sea block is estimated to hold ten trillion cubic feet of gas, reports Reuters.

Work on the block may start as early as this year, but licence issues could delay the process.