NICOSIA — Drilling by ExxonMobil set for late next month to confirm how much natural gas is contained in a sizable deposit off Cyprus’ southwestern coast will map out how the fuel will reach potential markets in Europe and Asia, the island nation’s energy minister said on Wednesday.
Minister Natasa Pilides says the “significant” drilling at the ‘Glaucus-1′ well inside block 10 of Cyprus’ exclusive zone scheduled to start in 6-8 weeks will determine if the deposit is at the higher 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 greater profits and in turn push exploitation of the deposit up the priority list for ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum among the different projects they’re 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 aboard ships is currently the “most likely option.”
But possible construction of a processing plant on Cyprus isn’t completely out of the picture depending on the overall quantity of gas found off the island that would make the project economically feasible.
A consortium made up of France’s Total and Italy’s Eni is set to start drilling in the first half of next year to determine the size of what was described as a “promising” deposit at its “Calypso 1” well in block 6 that abuts area where ExxonMobil-Qatar Petroleum is licensed.
The Total/Eni consortium is licensed to prospect for hydrocarbons in seven of 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 elsewhere could use to transition to more renewable sources for energy generation. She said that models show that even countries that generate most of their energy from renewables still have “quite a high percentage” of either natural gas or nuclear power as a back-up energy source.
Technology hasn’t reached the point where renewables could cover all a country’s energy needs so “there’s still room for natural gas.”
“Because (gas) prices are rising we’re going through a phase where there’s definitely more hope that if there’s sufficient quantities in Cyprus, it could provide an alternative for our region,” said Pililides.
Pilides said Egypt has been keen in nudging forward regional cooperation for a pipeline to transfer gas from Cypriot and even Israeli waters to its processing plants.
Although no numbers have been discussed, Pilides said the possibility is being examined for a pipeline that would convey gas to Egypt from Cyprus’ ‘Aphrodite’ deposit and Israel’s huge, adjacent field ‘Leviathan’ – both of which are operated by Chevron.
By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS Associated Press