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COVID-19 Sets Back ExxonMobil's Offshore Cyprus Drilling

Αssociated Press

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting marking the International Women's Day, in Istanbul, Sunday, March 8, 2020. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

NICOSIA - The COVID-19 Coronavirus has done to ExxonMobil what Turkey's warnings could not: stop drilling for energy off shore in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for the time being.

The American company is one of several foreign firms licensed to hunt for oil and gas I Cypriot waters, near where Turkey had also sent ships, disputing the legitimate government's claims to seas where drilling has been authorized.

According to Philenews, verification drilling that was scheduled to take place in Block 10 of Cyprus’ EEZ but has been set back to September 2021, a potential blow to bring in what could be lucrative revenues.

The clash over drilling has also sidelined for now any hopes of restarting reunification talks that collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove a 35,000-strong army on the occupied northern third seized in an unlawful 1974 invasion.

ExxonMobil reportedly wrote a letter informing the Cypriot government that scheduled drilling at two targets was being pushed back because of COVID-19 and operational difficulties with people required to stay apart from each other.

Energy Minister Georgios Lakkotrypis was quoted as saying, “The company has informed us regarding some delays over their planning, as these results are crucial in establishing whether natural gas deposit in the Republic of Cyprus’ EEZ can be commercially viable.”

Last year, he said that initial findings were a good basis to explore the prospect of building an LNG plant in Cyprus, while clarifying that greater quantities would still be needed as a determinant.

Steve Greenlee, ExxonMobil’s Exploration Company President, has said the initial results were encouraging in a “frontier exploration area” such as the eastern Mediterranean, reported Kathimerini Cyprus.

Last year, ExxonMobil announced that Glaucus-1, one of two targets in a program of two wells in block 10, was estimated to contain 5-8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The drilling was conducted by ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Cyprus (Offshore) as well as the Qatar Petroleum International Upstream OPC partnership. No viable quantities of hydrocarbons were discovered in Delphyne-1 within the same block.

“The potential for this newly discovered resource to serve as an energy source for regional and global markets will be evaluated further," Greenlee added.

Three other exploration drillings were due to begin this year by France's Total and Italy's Eni, who teamed up in a partnership but  recent reports said a drilling ship had been hung up in Lebanon.