By Angelos Anastasiou
NOBLE Energy has decided to suspend the operation of its drilling mud production unit at Limassol port pending government approval of its request to relocate the facility to the Larnaca port.
Local press reports suggested that the company’s decision was made in light of the fact that no drilling operations in the Cyprus exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are imminently scheduled, and mud production has therefore been subcontracted to an Israeli company until the resumption of drilling operations in Cyprus.
The Limassol mobile mud production unit had been set up last June to service Noble’s exploratory drilling operations in block 12 of the Cyprus EEZ.
Sources indicate that moving the facility was simply a cost-cutting decision, as fees at the Larnaca port are substantially lower than those at the Limassol port.
However, the company’s request to move the plant has been met with some trepidation by the government as Larnaca residents have voiced opposition to such a move, for fear of damaging the port’s tourism prospects.
Local activist groups point to scenarios of upgrading the marina and developing the port into a tourism hub, for which interest has been expressed by various Middle Eastern investors, and argue that the introduction of industrial and hydrocarbons-related projects would hinder this prospect greatly.
Additionally, the construction of a drilling mud production facility a few hundred metres away from the Phinikoudes beach, the town’s iconic tourist hot-spot, is sure to draw reaction from local tourist shopkeepers.
Cyprus Ports Authority (CPA) deputy director Anthi Cleridou confirmed the company’s request to relocate the plant, as well as the delay in reaching a final decision by the authority on the request.
“Approval remains pending in anticipation of final decisions by the investors who wish to develop the port, which we expect by the end of March,” she said.
If the grand investment plans are green-lit, Noble’s relocation application will need to be reevaluated by the authority, but while the matter is now being handled in the upper echelons of the government, the CPA is in direct contact with the company regarding this issue.
“Communication channels with Noble are mutually open,” Cleridou said.
“They are aware of the issues and eager to address them once final decisions have been made.”
The CPA views Noble’s move to suspend operation of its Limassol plant as an operational one, pending approval of its relocation request, which does not impact the company’s strategic planning on Cyprus operations.