US energy giant ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum completed their first test-drill for hydrocarbons offshore Cyprus and have begun exploring a second well, Cypriot authorities said Wednesday.
The Cypriot Energy Ministry announced that test drilling in the Delphine-1 well was completed in block 10 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.
It said the Stena Icemax drilling rig has already relocated and work has started on a second well called Glafcos-1 also in block 10 which ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum have a license to explore and exploit.
“Following consultations of the Ministry with the consortium, further announcements will be made on the completion of the second phase of this exploration programme,” said the statement.
No official indication was given on results from the first drill search.
Washington fully supports the right of Cyprus to exploit its natural wealth as it views energy development in the Eastern Mediterranean as a matter of priority, a senior US diplomat told reporters when visiting Nicosia last year.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis Fannon gave his backing when ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum began drilling in block 10 last November – a move Turkey is opposed to.
Fannon said: “We are very excited about the developments ongoing in the region…certainly happy to see US company involvement and continued opportunities.”
He said Washington had a “long-standing position of recognising Cyprus’ right to develop resource wealth in its EEZ…We will continue to advance Eastern Mediterranean energy as a priority.”
At the Delphine-1 well, drilling operations, conducted by the Stena Icemax drillship, were at a waterbed depth of 1,973 metres.
A safety zone of 500 meters has been established around the platform and entering this area is prohibited.
A Navtex marine notice issued for the drilling operation is valid until February 25, 2019.
Turkey has cautioned international oil companies not to drill for hydrocarbons off Cyprus or it will retaliate.
It argues that Cyprus has no mandate to exploit energy oil and gas riches while the island is still divided and no peace deal in site.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned foreign energy companies not to "overstep the mark" in disputed waters off the Cypriot coast.
The Italian state-controlled ENI had to abandon a scheduled drill for gas south of Cyprus in February 2018 due to a standoff with Turkish naval ships blocking the way of a drillship.
Texas-based Noble Energy in 2011 made the first discovery off Cyprus in the Aphrodite block estimated to contain around 4.5 trillion cubic feet of gas – it has yet to be commercialised.
The discovery of nearby Egypt’s huge Zohr offshore reservoir in 2015 has stoked interest that Cypriot waters hold the same riches.
Cyprus believes if it can discover more untapped oil and gas reserves it would be a game-changer in the region’s energy policies.