Cyprus is expected to create a shortlist of final bidders for offshore oil and gas contracts in the energy-rich East Mediterranean region.

The nation has received 15 bids from different companies for nine offshore blocks in the region, where a significant natural gas discovery was reported in December 2011.

"There are thought to be more than 100 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of untapped reserves throughout the region, according to the US Geological Survey."

Italy’s Eni, France’s Total, Malaysia-based Petronas and Russia’s Novatek are some of the big name bidders for the contracts.

Expressions of interest are being reviewed by state-commissioned consultants and the outcome will be reported in a few days.

Cyprus Commerce and Industry Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis was quoted by Reuters as saying the outcome from the expressions of interest will be submitted to the cabinet, which will make the final decision by the end of the month.

Significant natural gas discoveries in the same area have also been reported by Israel, Cyprus and Lebanon.

The Levantine basin is a rich hydrocarbon area which is claimed to be one of the world’s largest offshore gas finds.

There are thought to be more than 100 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of untapped reserves throughout the region, according to the US Geological Survey. The reserves are expected to be equal to the world’s total annual consumption of natural gas.

Noble Energy Cyprus country manager, John Tomich, said the company may step up plans to start oil exploration in the region. However, plans are yet to be finalised.

"The tantalising element here is the possibility of oil," Tomich said.

The company confirmed its 5-8 tcf discovery offshore Cyprus in one area, with a second drilling planned in 2013, subject to the availability of a rig.