Cyprus, which discovered natural gas off its coast in 2011, is seeking to develop its energy sector to bolster an economy that relies mostly on tourism, business services, and shipping.
It has 13 offshore licensing blocks, five of which are already licensed to Italy’s ENI, France’s Total and a consortium comprised of Noble Energy, BG International and Israel’s Delek Drilling and Avner.
But its attempts to tap offshore reserves has fuelled tensions with Turkey, which backs a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the island’s north. Ankara sent ships last year to protest against the Cypriot government conducting the licensing rounds.
“We are moving ahead with international contracts,” George Lakkotrypis told journalists in Brussels, adding the deadline for bids is July 22 and licences should be awarded by the beginning of 2017.
Lakkotrypis said efforts to resolve tensions with Turkey are the government’s priority but “we are not going to freeze everything else we are doing…Cyprus will press on despite the difficulties”.
Since the 2011 discovery of the field, named Aphrodite, the island has been exploring export options, including building a gas liquefaction plant and pipeline links to territorial neighbours.
“The most economically viable options is to drive the gas to the Egyptian shore… and liquefy there to ship to European markets,” Lakkotrypis said
The Aphrodite field is estimated to contain about four trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to U.S. company Noble Energy.