Cyprus Mail

Personnel shipped to drilling rig

By Elias Hazou

US ENERGY firm Noble Energy is due to begin appraisal drilling at a second site in offshore Block 12 later this week once the drilling platform has been prepped.

The ENSCO 5006 semi-submersible platform, which arrived on location on Saturday, is currently being anchored into position. Once the behemoth structure is properly decked out it could start boring into the seabed on Friday or perhaps earlier, officials here said.

The rig can reach drilling depths of up to 25,000 feet. Its operations are being supported by EDT Offshore, an oil and gas services company based in Limassol.

A fast crew boat, the ‘EDT Nefeli’, shuttled around 50 personnel to the platform yesterday, and another batch of riggers are to be transported today on a chopper flying out of the helipad – also operated by EDT – at the port of Limassol.

EDT also operates a shore base in Limassol which, among others, will prepare mud for the rig’s drilling operations.

Executive vice-chairman of the Cyprus National Hydrocarbons Company (CNHC) Solon Kassinis said yesterday the rig would drill about 100 metres deeper than the first well, reaching a depth of 5900 meters.

The exercise is expected to take about three to four months, and the results of the appraisal drilling would be known around October, he added.

Follow-up drilling is done to confirm the presence of natural gas and ascertain the quality of any reserves, which currently are still unproved. Following initial exploratory drilling in late 2011, Noble announced the discovery of an average of 7 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas at the prospect, dubbed ‘Aphrodite’.

The government plans to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at Vassilikos, Limassol, for the processing, domestic distribution and export of offshore natural gas. Confirmation of the gas estimates at Aphrodite would allow Cyprus to start sounding out long-term buyers for the gas, also paving the way to seeking financing for the LNG terminal.

The government hopes to sign a preliminary agreement with Noble for developing the LNG facility. The deal’s purpose is to set up a joint venture between the state hydrocarbons company and Noble; it would be a special purpose vehicle seeking out investors for the plant. The intended deal relates to the construction of a single train at Vassilikos. More trains could subsequently be added to the facility in the event of further gas discoveries in Cypriot waters.

CNHC chairman Charalambos Ellinas said yesterday that, in order for the LNG terminal to be an economically viable project, at least 6 tcf of natural gas would need to exist in Block 12.
But all indications are that the reserves will amount to 7 tcf or more, he added.

Earlier this year, as part of Cyprus’ second licensing round, contracts were signed with the Italian-Korean consortium ENI-KOGAS in blocks 2, 3, and 9, and with France’s Total for blocks 10 and 11.

Total and ENI have set up offices on the island.

According to Ellinas, Total could begin drilling next year, followed by ENI in late 2014.

Debt-ridden Cyprus, which recently secured a €10 billion international bailout, is banking on its newfound offshore hydrocarbons. Even assuming that plans go according to schedule, the island is not expected to begin exports of gas earlier than 2019 or 2020.

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