Cyprus sets end 2018 date for verdict on gas prospects

2 min

Nicosia (AFP)

Cyprus will know by the end of 2018 if it has exploitable offshore gas reserves after several more test drills are carried out, the island's Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis said Monday.

"Over the next 12 months, we expect to have either four or five drills, which will be extremely important going forward," Lakkotrypis told a parliamentary committee.

"At the end of 2018, we will now know the hydrocarbon resources we have in order to be able to make decisions on our gas exploitation strategy," he added.

Since launching a concerted energy search more than seven years ago, Cyprus has failed to find enough quantities of natural gas to make it commercially viable to exploit.

But there are hopes that international companies will discover exploitable reserves in the near future.

US giant ExxonMobil said it plans to start drilling at two sites in the second half of 2018 to explore for energy reserves off the south coast.

Lakkotrypis also said Italy's ENI is also currently making plans to test drill in three offshore blocks.

ExxonMobil with Qatar Petroleum has signed a licence agreement with the Cyprus government to explore block 10 for oil and gas.

Block 10 is close to where ENI made a huge find in Egypt´s offshore "Zohr" field, raising hopes in Cyprus of more untapped wealth.

US firm Noble Energy made the first find off southeast Cyprus in 2011 in the Aphrodite field (Block 12), estimated to contain 127.4 billion cubic metres (4.54 trillion cubic feet) of gas.

Italian-South Korean venture ENI-Kogas has so far failed to discover exploitable gas reserves in deep-sea drilling off the island, while exploratory drilling in block 11 by ENI and France´s Total has also failed.

Block 12 has been declared commercially viable although an action plan on the next steps has yet to be finalised.

Cyprus needs to find more gas reserves to make a planned onshore terminal financially viable as it seeks to become a regional energy player.

It had planned to build a liquefied natural gas plant for exports by ship to Asia and Europe, but the reserves confirmed so far are insufficient to make that feasible.

Cyprus and energy-starved Egypt are looking into the possibility of transferring gas from the Aphrodite field to Egypt via an undersea pipeline.

The island hopes to begin exporting gas, and maybe oil, by 2022.