NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – ExxonMobil drilling slated for late next month to confirm the amount of natural gas contained in a significant field off the southwest coast of Cyprus will determine how the fuel reaches potential markets in Europe and Asia, the island nation said Wednesday the energy minister.
Minister Natasa Pilides said the “significant” drilling of the “Glaucus-1” well inside Block 10 of the Cyprus Exclusive Zone, which is expected to start in 6 to 8 weeks, will determine whether the field is within upper or lower end of its estimated size of 5-8 trillion cubic feet (142-227 billion cubic meters) of natural gas.
A higher confirmed quantity would naturally mean bigger profits and, in turn, push the exploitation of the field to the top of the priority list for ExxonMobil and its partner Qatar Petroleum among the various projects they are currently working on.
Pilides told The Associated Press in an interview that transferring the gas by pipeline to Egyptian processing plants where it would be liquefied for export on ships is currently “the most likely option”.
But the possible construction of a treatment plant in Cyprus is not totally ruled out depending on the overall amount of gas found off the island that would make the project economically feasible.
A consortium of French Total and Italian Eni is expected to start drilling in the first half of next year to determine the size of what has been described as a “promising” deposit in its “Calypso 1” well in the block. 6 which adjoins the area where ExxonMobil-Qatar Petroleum is authorized.
The Total / Eni consortium is authorized to prospect for hydrocarbons in seven of the 13 blocks off Cyprus. “Calypso” could extend to neighboring block 7 which belongs to the consortium.
Pilides said natural gas is a cleaner-burning conventional fuel that countries in Europe and beyond could use to switch to more renewable sources for power generation. She said the models show that even countries that generate most of their energy from renewables still have “a fairly high percentage” of natural gas or nuclear power as a backup power source.
The technology has not reached the point where renewables could meet all of a country’s energy needs, “so there is still room for natural gas.”
“Because (gas) prices are going up, we are going through a phase where there is certainly more hope that if there are sufficient quantities in Cyprus it could provide an alternative for our region,” said Pililides.
Pilides said Egypt wanted to advance regional cooperation for a pipeline to transfer gas from Cypriot and even Israeli waters to its processing plants.
Although no figures were discussed, Pilides said the possibility was being explored for a pipeline that would bring gas to Egypt from Cyprus’s “Aphrodite” field and the huge adjacent field of ‘Israel “Leviathan” – both operated by Chevron.