Cyprus Mail

Pipelines favoured option for gas finds

Noble's John Tomich

By Elias Hazou

Noble Energy is leaning toward regional pipelines as its favoured option for monetising its Cypriot natural gas finds, with onshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) now relegated to bottom of the list.

Although all alternatives are still on the table, John Tomich, general manager of Noble Energy (Cyprus) said on Tuesday the pipeline option was “the most compelling.”

“We’re not looking at multiple [LNG] trains now, we’re focusing on pipelines,” he told energy specialists and investors in Nicosia.

The Noble official may have been alluding to the concept of a pipeline running from Israel’s Tamar gas field, linking up with another pipeline at the Aphrodite field and then on to Egypt.

The Tamar partners – Noble and Delek – have struck a preliminary deal with Fenosa to supply gas to the latter’s LNG plant in Egypt.

BG Group is in advanced talks with Israel to import gas supplies into Egypt and recently began similar discussions with Cyprus’ state hydrocarbons company aimed at restoring output at its LNG plant in Idku near Alexandria.

Speaking at the 10th Cyprus Summit organised by the Economist, Tomich said the LNG method was costly, while floating LNG posed engineering issues.

The Noble rep acknowledged compressed natural gas (CNG) was a possible option, but said the technology had a steep learning curve.

“We don’t want to be the first to dive in,” he noted.

Tomich made it clear that pipelines and/or the development of a petrochemicals and fertilisers project on the island were the more likely scenarios for the Houston-based outfit.

“It’s still early days in the Levant basin… it’s a formative environment,” he said, but was quick to add that there was a good probability of Noble and other operators finding more gas offshore.

“We believe that the lower end of the Aphrodite resource is commercial,” he said.

In late 2011 Noble announced a big discovery within its Block 12 concession. Subsequent appraisal drilling conducted in October 2013 lowered the estimates to a range from 3.6 trillion cubic feet (tcf) to 6 tcf, with a mean of approximately 5 tcf.

Tomich alluded also to the possibility of recovering “deep oil”.

The company is planning additional drilling in 2015, he said, noting that Noble hopes to have its development plan ready sometime next year.

The elephant in the room – Turkey’s incursions in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone – was finally addressed, after a member of the audience posed a question to the panel.

Responding, Panos Papanastasiou, dean of the engineering school at the University of Cyprus, and an oil and gas advisor to the government, said he did not believe Turkey has the means to conduct drilling in the Cyprus EEZ.

“I don’t think that they can get hold of a drilling rig or drillship,” he said.

Downplaying the Turkish provocations, Papanastasiou remarked: “What are they [Turkey] going to do, short of blocking or interfering with our [ENI’s] drillship, which they have not done.”

Online news outlet O’Dwyer’s reported recently that Noble has hired FTI Consulting, a think tank, for a “status report on developments in the Eastern Mediterranean,” according to its federal lobbying filing.

Turkey has despatched a seismic research vessel to Cyprus’ EEZ, a move that prompted the President to break off peace talks with the Turkish Cypriot community.

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