By Elias Hazou
TALKS aimed at a framework deal to sell Cypriot offshore gas to Egypt are ongoing, despite the recent discovery of a massive gas find in Egyptian waters, energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis reiterated yesterday.
Lakkotrypis met in Nicosia with representatives of British Gas (BG), reportedly interested in obtaining gas from the Aphrodite prospect in Block 12, processing it at their LNG plant in Egypt and then re-exporting it to Europe.
The minister also said that BG is in contact with the Block 12 partners (Noble Energy, Delek and Avner) as well as with the state-owned Cyprus Hydrocarbons Company (CHC).
According to the Cyprus News Agency, the Block 12 consortium and CHC are meantime in consultations with ten other organisations interested in the gas, including Union Fenosa, operators of the other LNG terminal in Egypt at Damietta.
There are two aspects to the discovery of the Zohr prospect in Egypt, Lakkotrypis noted.
One is geological, in that the Zohr field is in close proximity (some 6 km) to the border of Cyprus’ offshore Block 11, currently licensed to French oil giant Total, who previously failed to identify drilling targets.
Now, the discovery of Zohr serves to better map out the area, and may suggest the presence of hydrocarbons on the Cypriot side.
The second aspect, Lakkotrypis said, concerns Cyprus’ bid to sell its gas to Egypt, “which is now the question.”
Over the last few days, since the announcement of the Zohr find, the minister has been in frequent communication with his Egyptian counterpart, Sherif Ismail.
Both countries’ officials have been at pains to stress that the recent discovery does not negate Egyptian interest in Cypriot gas imports, although Ismail did indicate that the final decision rests with the oil and gas companies.
Late yesterday, President Nicos Anastasiades spoke on the phone with Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, according to a Twitter post by the government spokesman.
Meanwhile, something appears to be on the cards in regard to Cyprus’ energy plans, if reports are to be believed.
Yesterday, CNA cited unnamed government sources as saying that “a development will take place soon that will shake Cyprus to its core.”
The news agency subsequently issued a new, edited bulletin, dialling down the quote and changing it to “important developments are expected soon.”
The comment comes on the back of a remark from the government spokesman, who a day earlier, told reporters that “very soon events will disprove the critics of our energy plans, perhaps as early as next month.”
A government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to the Mail that an important announcement should be expected sometime in early October.
Asked whether this concerned the Aphrodite prospect in Block 12, or Block 11, the source ducked the question, offering: “It’s an overall important development. Be patient.”
The source noted that statements should be made whenever there is something concrete to announce.
“Look at ENI. They obviously knew about Zohr weeks before they revealed it.”
Total, meanwhile, is set to hand over the results of updated surveys in Block 11. This, according to reports, is expected to happen sometime next month.
It’s understood that, since initially conducting 3D seismic surveys in the area, Total has since been carrying out desk studies, re-analysing data and their geological model.
The French company is under no commitment to drill an exploratory well in Block 11, but may do so at its own initiative, even though time is running out fast – the exploratory programme expires in February 2016.
It’s understood the government is open to renewing the exploration license beyond that date, should Total request it.
CNA also reported that Lakkotrypis plans to meet with Total’s CEO while on an official visit to Paris.
Reports, meanwhile, said that today the government will be handing over to Noble its comments on the former’s development plan for the Aphrodite reservoir.
Also today, President Nicos Anastasiades is scheduled to meet here with Yitzhak Tshuva, the controlling shareholder in the Delek Group.
And on the same day, the new ambassadors of Egypt and Israel in Cyprus will be presenting their credentials to the President.