Cyprus issues second offshore drilling license to ExxonMobil

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ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Energy have extended their stake in potential oil and gas fields off Cyprus

NICOSIA, Cyprus – ExxonMobil and its partner Qatar Energy expanded their stake in potential oil and gas fields off Cyprus by signing an agreement with the eastern Mediterranean island nation on Friday for a second exploration license in the waters claimed in part by Turkey.

Drilling off Cyprus has been a source of tension with neighboring Turkey since 2011, when Texas-based Noble Energy discovered the first natural gas off the ethnically divided island’s southern coast.

Cyprus Energy Minister Natasa Pilides said with the new license ExxonMobil is expected to start exploration in the first half of next year to get a better estimate of potential oil and gas quantities.

She added that there were “sufficiently promising indications” that the geological makeup of the underwater area mirrors that of a nearby location where ExxonMobil discovered in 2019 a significant deposit estimated at 5-8 trillion cubic feet. gas. The two energy companies are drilling an appraisal well in this field to confirm the amount of gas it contains.

Varnavas Theodossiou, Managing Director of ExxonMobil Cyprus, said the new license “allows us to further expand our presence in Cyprus in what we believe to be a promising region for offshore exploration”.

The move comes amid warnings from Turkey that it will “never allow” anyone to search for “unauthorized” gas in waters it says is partly under its control.

The ethnic split in Cyprus occurred in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aimed at union with Greece. Turkey does not recognize Cypriot statehood but instead recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the northern third of the island – the only country to do so.

Ankara insists that the internationally recognized Cypriot government located in the south “acts unilaterally” in the exploitation of the offshore gas reserves and ignores the rights of Turkey and the separatist Turkish Cypriots over the hydrocarbon potential of the region.

To drive the point home, Turkey has sent numerous drilling and prospecting vessels escorted by warships to conduct exploratory drilling inside the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. It also claims about 40% of this area either within its continental shelf or owned by Turkish Cypriots.

The Cypriot government claims that Turkey’s claims are not recognized by international law.

Cyprus has also cleared seven of its 13 offshore drilling areas to a consortium made up of France’s TotalEnergies and Italy’s Eni, which is expected to resume its own drilling in the first half of next year after a nearly two-year delay caused by the coronavirus. pandemic.

Pilides, the Cypriot Minister of Energy, said that ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum are not “troubled” by threats from Turkey and the agreement is proof of that. She said the Cypriot government will continue its drilling program in accordance with international law.


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