ENERGY: Total and Eni stake another claim in Cyprus gas search

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Energy giants Total and Eni have joined forces to exploit another oil and gas block up for grabs offshore Cyprus, Cypriot authorities said Wednesday.

The agreement makes France’s Total and Italy’s Eni the biggest players in the Mediterranean island’s energy search, holding exploration licenses for seven of the 13 blocks. Korea’s Kogas is also a partner in three of those concessions.

Last year, Cyprus invited Total and Eni to bid for unclaimed block 7 of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and on Wednesday contracts were signed giving them an equal 50 per cent share in the venture.

Cypriot Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis called it an “important development” as it widens the presence of international companies in Cyprus’ EEZ while strengthening the government’s strategic partnership.

Around nine exploration drills are expected over the next 24 months in the various blocks off Cyprus’ southern shore.

Nicosia decided to proceed with exploiting block 7 after a preliminary gas discovery in adjacent block 6 is thought to extend into it, said Lakkotrypis.

Eni is the operator of Block 6 with a 50% participation interest and Total has the other 50%.

The Calypso field is considered by Eni to be a promising gas discovery that confirms the extension of “Zohr like” play in the Cyprus blocks.

The discovery of nearby Egypt’s huge Zohr offshore reservoir in 2015 has stoked interest that Cypriot waters hold the same riches.

Turkey is opposed to Nicosia’s energy exploration plans and wants a say in the development of hydrocarbons in the region.

Cyprus has pushed ahead with exploring for offshore energy resources despite the collapse in 2017 of talks to end the country's decades-long division.

That has angered neighbouring Turkey, which has had troops stationed in the country since 1974 when it invaded and occupied its northern third in response to a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece.

Earlier this year, Ankara dispatched two drillships inside Cyprus’ designated EEZ which has raised tensions.

Washington and Brussels have urged Turkey to withdraw its vessels from Cypriot waters, with the European Union imposing sanctions on Turkey for its confrontation with EU member state Cyprus, a country Ankara does not recognise.

In February, ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum made a “world-class discovery” of natural gas quantities of 5 to 8 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) – the biggest find to date.

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.

Cyprus aims for natural gas to start flowing to Egypt’s LNG facility in 2025 via pipeline from Aphrodite, therefore generating its first revenue from natural gas in the same year.