Cyprus resumes energy search with ExxonMobil
Nicosia (AFP) – Cyprus announced on Wednesday it has resumed searching for oil and gas with US energy giant ExxonMobil after drilling operations stopped for more than a year because of coronavirus.
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The search is focused on Block 10 of Cyprus's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Joint venture ExxonMobil and Qatar Energy have an exploration licence for Block 10. Work has begun there on appraisal drilling in Glafcus 2, where natural gas has been detected.
"With the appraisal drilling in Glafcus 2, the drilling programme resumes in the EEZ of Cyprus," Energy Minister Natasa Pilides tweeted on Wednesday.
"We worked with our licensees to ensure the safety of their activities amid the pandemic."
The energy ministry said drilling conducted by the drillship Stena Forth would be "monitored continuously" by officials.
It is the first drilling operation off the Cyprus coast since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
Despite Turkish opposition, Nicosia has gone ahead with its energy search.
In February 2019, ExxonMobil and Qatar Energy discovered a huge natural gas reserve off Cyprus in Block 10, the island's largest find to date.
It is estimated to hold between five and eight trillion cubic feet.
Results of the new drill are expected by the end of February.
Turkey had threatened to prevent ExxonMobil's search for oil and gas off Cyprus after Nicosia awarded it the rights to Block 5 earlier this month.
The Turkish foreign ministry said a sector of the licensed area violates Turkey's continental shelf in the eastern Mediterranean.
"Turkey will never allow any foreign country, company or ship to engage in hydrocarbon exploration activities in its maritime jurisdictions," the ministry said earlier in December.
Ankara would "defend" its rights and those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, it said.
The breakaway TRNC, recognised only by Ankara, lays claim to energy resources discovered off its coast, insisting that the island's natural resources belong to both communities.
The eastern Mediterranean has become an energy hot spot, with significant natural gas finds for Cyprus, Israel and Egypt.
Ankara was accused of "gunboat diplomacy" in February 2018 when the Turkish navy prevented a ship leased by Italy's ENI from reaching its drilling destination in Cyprus's Block 3.
The European Commission has urged Turkey to de-escalate and vowed to defend the interests of member states Greece and Cyprus.
Turkey was widely condemned for sending its own drillships into Cypriot waters for energy exploration, with the EU slapping sanctions on Ankara.
During the first half of 2022, ENI and France's Total are expected to drill in their licensed blocks.
Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third in 1974 in response to a Greek-engineered coup aiming to annex the island.
Nicosia has pushed ahead with offshore energy exploration despite the collapse in 2017 of UN-brokered talks to end the country's decades-long division.
© 2021 AFP