Turkey announces plans to explore offshore Cyprus

Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, in a move designed to stir passions in the Eastern Mediterranean region, has signed a cooperation protocol with Energy Minister Sunat Atun of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 22 -- Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, in a move designed to stir passions in the Eastern Mediterranean region, has signed a cooperation protocol with Energy Minister Sunat Atun of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

"We will begin work on oil exploration around Cyprus and in our exclusive territory," Yildiz said. "We are working on supplying the Greek Cypriot side with energy if requested," Yildiz said, clearly aware that his remarks would nettle the southern half of the island.

Turkey invaded northern Cyprus in 1974 and set up an enclave that is still recognized only by Ankara. By contrast, the southern half of the island is ruled by the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government, which represents Cyprus in the European Union.

Yildiz said Turkish scientists had received signs of oil deposits following seismic research undertaken in the exclusive economic zone between Cyprus and Mersin on Turkey's southern coast.

The Turkish minister said there was the possibility of joint operations with international oil companies for exploration in the region, which would cover 288,000 sq km. Yildiz said talks would continue with oil companies, but he did not name any of them.

Yildiz’s announcement is sure to rev up excitement among other countries in the region where a “scramble” is already said to be on the way for natural gas (OGJ Online, Oct. 4, 2020).

Indeed, Yildiz’s statement coincided with reports that Cyprus and Lebanon have agreed on to advance with plans to search for oil and gas deposits off their shores in the eastern Mediterranean once their mutual economic zones have been defined.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said his country also wants to include neighboring Syria in the plans to enable all three countries to benefit from exploration for hydrocarbons.

"We are finalizing also the economic zone with Syria, then hopefully we will soon be sending this ratification of the whole entire area to parliament," Hariri told reporters on a visit to Cyprus.

Cyprus has signed delineation agreements with Egypt and Lebanon, which have agreed to mutually exploit hydrocarbon deposits that lie under their boundaries, but the deal with Beirut has not yet been ratified by Lebanon’s parliament.

"We had some differences when we made this agreement with Cyprus, and we had some differences with Syria, but now we have a much better relationship with Syria and we are negotiating the economic zone," said Hariri.

Despite delays, Cyprus says it will soon launch a second licensing round after the exploration procedure was launched 3 years ago.

The Nicosia government says it is committed to continuing consultations with its neighbors in the search for hydrocarbon reserves within Cyprus's exclusive economic zone.

Cyprus Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides recently said the island would go ahead with a second licensing round for its remaining 12 blocks after "consultations with other countries are completed."

Cyprus has signed a memorandum of cooperation with Israel for surveying and mapping in joint research energy projects. Since then Cyprus has also licensed Noble Energy to search for hydrocarbons in Cypriot waters.

A Noble spokesperson said the firm already has identified a natural gas prospect inside its Cyprus block, but that there was no estimate of its potential size or chances of success. The Noble spokesperson said no specific date for drilling a well has been set.

Still, there is gas and oil to be had in the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean, as evidenced by recent efforts.

Earlier this week, a consortium led by Noble Energy Inc. began drilling at its Leviathan natural gas prospect in the eastern Mediterranean, according to one of the partners in the group (OGJ Online, Oct. 19, 2010).

The group, which has reported the possibility of finding oil under the gas, earlier estimated Leviathan's reserves at 16 tcf of gas and gave the project a 50% geologic chance of success (OGJ Online, Aug. 9, 2010).

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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