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Drillship on course for Cyprus EEZ

The Saipem 10000 ultra deepwater drillship on Tuesday continued on its course for Cyprus, where later this month it is scheduled to carry out exploratory drilling for natural gas in block 6.

The drillship’s estimated time of arrival offshore Cyprus was listed as December 27, according to the Marine Traffic website.

At the time of writing, the ship had just cleared the Spanish coastline, headed in an easterly direction.

According to daily Phileleftheros, drilling at the first target – dubbed Kalipso – in block 6 is expected to start on December 30.

The drillship has been leased by the consortium of ENI and Total which have the licence on block 6.

The operations in block 6 are expected to wrap up by early February 2018, after which the drillship will almost immediately head to block 3 – also licensed to ENI – for another exploratory drill. The target in block 3 is codenamed Soupia.

Turkey, which does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, claims that block 6 partially falls within the outer limits of its continental shelf in the eastern Mediterranean.

In a letter sent to the United Nations in May, Turkey’s permanent representative to the UN Feridun Sinirlioglu expressed “grave concerns” over Cyprus licensing the acreage in question.

Sinirlioglu added that “Turkey is committed to protecting its sovereign rights emanating from international law and will not allow foreign companies to conduct unauthorised hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities on its continental shelf.”

In what is by now a familiar tactic, Turkey recently issued a Navtex – or marine advisory – by which it reserved for navy exercises a huge sea area around Cyprus. The reserved area reportedly covers all 13 offshore blocks either partially or in full.

The marine advisory expires on December 23.

Cyprus regards Turkish marine advisories as illegal, not because they violate the island’s territorial waters or continental shelf per se, but because the areas reserved by Turkey fall under the Republic’s

Search and Rescue (SAR) Area of Responsibility.

Phileleftheros reports that, in a pre-emptive move, Cyprus has recently issued its own marine advisories by which it reserves for scientific and environmental research certain sea areas in blocks 6 and 3, including the two drilling targets.

Meanwhile reports in the Cypriot and Greek media said a drillship leased by Turkey was headed to the eastern Mediterranean, ostensibly to conduct drilling operations there.

Turkish government officials have repeatedly made noises about plans to drill for gas in the eastern Mediterranean – without specifying where.

The drillship referred to is the DeepSea Metro II. On Tuesday it was located between the coasts of France and Spain. The vessel’s destination was Istanbul, with an estimated time of arrival there of December 31.

As ENI’s operations in block 6 near, the consortium comprising ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum are making their own preparations for drilling in block 10.

The companies have filed applications to the government to secure the relevant environmental and other permits.

Phileleftheros reports that ExxonMobil have already leased underwater robots that will dive to the two drill targets earmarked in block 10.

The robots will take photographs to determine the incline of the seabed and establish whether ancient shipwrecks are located there.

The block 10 consortium have also done preparatory work on the logistics, including for an onshore base and resupply vessels, and have farmed out some of the support operations to subcontractors.

The two drills in block 10 are expected to take place in the summer of 2018.

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