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US oil giant ExxonMobil plans Cyprus gas exploration

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Nicosia (AFP)

US giant ExxonMobil said Wednesday it plans to start drilling at two sites in the second half of 2018 to explore for energy reserves off the south coast of Cyprus.

Preparations to support the drilling operations are already underway, the company?s vice president Tristan Aspray said at a presentation in Nicosia.

He said the operations would take place back-to-back and begin in the second half of 2018.

ExxonMobil with Qatar Petroleum has signed a licence agreement with the Cyprus government to explore block 10 for oil and gas as part of a third licensing round to exploit new offshore plots.

Block 10 is close to where ENI made a huge find in Egypt?s offshore "Zohr" field, raising hopes in Cyprus of more untapped wealth.

US firm Noble Energy made the first find off southeast Cyprus in 2011 in the Aphrodite field (Block 12), estimated to contain 127.4 billion cubic metres (4.54 trillion cubic feet) of gas.

Israeli firms Delek and Avner have a 30-percent stake in the venture. Noble has handed over a 35 percent share to the UK's BG International.

Italian-South Korean venture ENI-Kogas has so far failed to discover any exploitable gas reserves in deep-sea drilling off the island.

Block 12 has been declared commercially viable but an action plan on the next steps has yet to be finalised.

Italy?s ENI and France?s Total, which have equal shares in block 11, have been conducting exploratory drilling off the south coast since July.

Cyprus needs to find more gas reserves to make a planned onshore terminal financially viable as it seeks to become a regional energy player.

It had planned to build a liquefied natural gas plant that would allow exports by ship to Asia and Europe, but the reserves confirmed so far are insufficient to make that feasible.

Cyprus and energy-starved Egypt are looking into the possibility of transferring gas from the Aphrodite field to Egypt via an undersea pipeline. The island hopes to begin exporting gas, and maybe oil, by 2022.

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