Amid renewed Turkish threats, energy giant ExxonMobil plans to carry out an exploratory drill at a prospect off Cyprus sometime in the fourth quarter, a senior official said on Friday, after a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades.
“We discussed our plans for the drilling and the exploration wells, and I informed Mr President that our plan is to drill sometime in the fourth quarter, we don’t have an exact date right now,” ExxonMobil Senior Vice President Neil Chapman said.
ExxonMobil together with Qatar Petroleum, own an offshore concession inside the island’s exclusive economic zone known as block 10.
Of the prospects of the region becoming an alternative route for energy resources to Europe or elsewhere, Chapman said the energy business was a global market and the world needed hydrocarbons from many locations.
“What is really important in developing hydrocarbons is the resource, whether it’s large, commercial and competitive enough in the global market,” he said.
He added that with regard to block 10, it was too early to say.
“Timelines in this business are really important. Once you discover hydrocarbons it has to be sufficient quantity to be commercially competitive and then the timeline for development is a long time. Should there be sufficient hydrocarbons in block 10 you then have to appraise it to understand if it is commercially viable and then the time to get commercial quantities in the market could take years, it could be seven years.”
Chapman did not rule out showing interest in neighbouring block seven – which the government offered to licenced companies — but that was not the company’s priority at present.
“Our focus now is exclusively on block 10 exploration with our partner Qatar Petroleum.”
The ExxonMobil VP tiptoed around a question regarding Turkey’s claims inside Cyprus’ EEZ and warnings to companies to stay away.
“We are a commercial entity and our business is about producing and developing natural resources on behalf of governments. Any government issues, that’s for governments to discuss and resolve,” he said.
Government Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou reiterated on Friday that the Republic of Cyprus was carrying on with its energy plans on the basis of international law and in cooperation with the companies that are licensed in its EEZ.
He made the statements after Turkey’s angry reaction on Thursday to Cyprus’ decision to invite oil companies to bid on block 7, threatening that it would prevent exploration in the area. Prodromou told the Cyprus News Agency that “no comment was necessary” in relation to Turkey’s announcement.
In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry had said: “the decision by the Greek-Cypriot government is proof that the equal rights and interests of the Turkish-Cypriot side with regard to the island’s natural resources continue to be ignored.”
Turkey claimed the government’s decision “violates the rights of our country stemming from international law.”
The Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign ministry’ also expressed anger over the “unilateral action” on hydrocarbon exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, which, it said, was ignoring Turkish Cypriots’ rights and is also violating Turkey’s rights to its continental shelf.
In a statement, the ‘ministry’ said that that decision was also proof that the Greek Cypriot side persistently continued to pursue a policy aimed at usurping the rights of Turkish Cypriots on the issue.
This “unlawful stance had a negative and destabilising impact on the region”, it said, and a direct reflection of the Greek Cypriot side’s reluctance to share power and wealth with the Turkish Cypriots which was the reason why the negotiations process collapsed last year in Crans-Montana and a settlement has not been reached for the past 50 years.
It warned that the ‘TRNC’ with Turkey “will take all necessary steps to defend its rights and interests in the region, including carrying out its own hydrocarbon exploration activities.”
Ankara has repeatedly warned Cyprus against taking “unilateral steps” in exploring and developing hydrocarbons without factoring in the Turkish Cypriots with whom Ankara signed a ‘continental shelf delineation agreement’ in 2001.
In February, Turkish warships prevented Italian energy company ENI from drilling in a field inside block six of the Republic’s ΕΕΖ.
Turkey’s claims on the island’s EEZ partly overlap with Cyprus’ blocks 1, 4, 6 and 7. Ankara also supports the north’s claims on blocks 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 12 and 13, including within few kilometres from the Aphrodite gas field in block12.