By Jean Christou
ENERGY Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said yesterday Cyprus was going ahead with its plans to build an LNG terminal and that Noble Energy’s talks in Turkey this week with major energy firms did not affect those plans.
Lakkotrypis was speaking on the sidelines of the exports awards ceremony at the presidential palace. He said the talks in Turkey between Noble, which holds the concession for Block 12 in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) were connected with long-time gas discussions concerning Turkey and Israel. “These discussions are not something new,” he said.
“As to our plans, we are proceeding with the liquefaction terminal, while at the same time preparing for other options so we can be ready of all eventualities,” said the minister.
He said these options included a floating liquefaction unit or a pipeline with Egypt from a processing plant there, which was something Cyprus has recently begun discussing with the Egyptian government. “These are our choices. However, our strategic objective remains the onshore gas liquefaction terminal,” said Lakkotrypis.
In early January, Noble Energy, aware that discovered reserves in Block 12 were insufficient for an LNG plant, which has fuelled speculation as to how the island’s gas reserves could be exploited, said that the plan might end up back on the drawing board.
The Cyprus Mail has previously been told that the LNG plant could still work if Israeli and Cypriot gas finds were pooled with the reserves run through a land terminal at Vassilikos.
On Tuesday, sources told the newspaper that the prospects for a plant were slipping away due to a confluence of other developments in the energy sector.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said on Tuesday that Noble and Delek, the senior partners in Israeli gas concessions, would discuss with four Turkish companies – Zorlu, Enka, Turcas and Calik – the possibility of piping Israeli natural gas to Europe via Turkey.
Hurriyet said a pipeline – costing an estimated $2bn – would be the most cost-effective means of exporting gas to Turkey, compared to an onshore LNG plant that might carry a price tag of at least $10bn.
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, who travelled to Israel on Tuesday for talks that were to include gas, was quoted in the Telegraph yesterday as saying Cyprus had not ruled out a Turkish pipeline to go along with an LNG plant, “but that would require bumper discoveries”.
Referring to a recent incident in Cyprus’ EEZ when the Norwegian ship MV Princess was carrying out exploratory work, he said the vessel was chased off by a Turkish warship.
“We are still far away from gunboat diplomacy, even for Turkey. Groups like Noble Energy, ENI and Total would not be investing billions in exploration here if they really thought Turkey was going to stop them,” Kasoulides was quoted as saying.
He said the whole world, including the US, recognised the right of Cyprus to exploit the right of its own exclusive economic resources.
“The Eastern Mediterranean has become the focus of attention for the whole world. We are in the frontline of a volatile area and we are upgrading our responsibility. We have done a number of things that are not in the public domain,” said Kasoulides.
Concluding, the Telegraph said: “Whatever happens, Cyprus will be not drawing down any rents from gas for another eight years, and may never do if the island remains divided. It is a fair bet that no major oil company will sink funds into final development as long as Turkish warships patrol in anger.”
In Tel Aviv, Kasoulides met yesterday with President Shimon Peres who said relations between Israel and Cyprus were “at an unprecedented level of cooperation.”
Kasoulides stressed the importance of relations on security, energy, water management and science and technology.
The visit also includes meetings with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Energy Minister Silvan Shalom, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, and Greek Patriarch Theophilos III.
Kasoulides will also visit Ramallah for meetings with Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Foreign Minister Riad Malki.