By Elias Hazou
AN ITALIAN-Korean consortium prospecting for natural gas off Cyprus’ southern coast will proceed to its next target and start drilling sometime during the first fortnight of January, the government spokesman has said.
The official’s statement confirmed that the Saipem 10000 drillship, operating on behalf of the ENI-KOGAS combine, would be relocating to a site dubbed ‘Amathusa’, although local press reports said drilling there could commence as early as January 6.
The ‘Amathusa’ prospect is located some 55 kilometers from the ‘Onasagoras’ well, where recent exploratory drilling did not yield commercially exploitable reserves of natural gas. Both are located within offshore block 9, on concession to ENI-KOGAS.
Drilling at ‘Amathusa’ is expected to take around three months. Preliminary data suggest that, although the geological probability for gas is lower than it was for ‘Onasagoras’, due to its sheer size the prospect could hold substantial gas.
Moreover, ‘Amathusa’ is in close proximity to the ‘Aphrodite’ well in block 12, on license to Texas-based Noble Energy and where sizeable gas reserves were discovered in late 2011.
In addition to block 9, ENI-KOGAS have concessions on blocks 2 and 3. The consortium is contractually obliged to carry out at least four drilling operations during its current exploration programme, expected to last anywhere from 12 to 18 months. Drilling operations began in September.
ENI’s precise schedule after ‘Amathusa’ is still unknown, and will depend on findings there as well as on the analysis of data gathered from the ‘Onasagoras’ well.
A 2010 report by the US Geological Survey estimated a mean of 122 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of recoverable gas in the Levant Basin.
The basin includes Cyprus’ offshore blocks 2, 3, 9 and 12, as well as Israeli gas fields.
So far, about a third of the basin area has been explored. Combined, the finds at Israel’s Leviathan, Tamar and a couple of smaller plays, plus the ‘Aphrodite’ reservoir, come to approximately 40 tcf –about a third of the quantities mentioned by the US Geological Survey.
According to Noble Energy, their ‘Aphrodite’ play has proven reserves of between 3.6 and 6 tcf. It’s understood, however, that privately the Americans have narrowed down the quantities to around 3.1 tcf, based on a 90 per cent probability.
These reserves are not enough for a land-based gas liquefaction facility, and Noble as well as the government are in talks with British Gas for piping the ‘Aphrodite’ gas to Egypt.