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Our View: Gas find the start of a long journey

Regional vice-president of ExxonMobil, Tristan Aspray (right)

THE eagerly awaited announcement by ExxonMobil-Qatar Petroleum about the results of its drilling in Block 10 did not disappoint, even though the gas find was not the quantity being reported by an assortment of websites and the state broadcaster CyBC which had been drawing parallels with Egypt’s Zohr gas field. Exxon Mobil announced a gas find in the Glafcos (Glaucus) 1 well of between five and eight trillion cubic feet (tfc) which makes it the biggest find in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

This was the eighth exploratory drilling in the Cypriot EEZ, three of which found quantities that could be commercially exploited. The first was Noble Energy’s discovery in Block 12 in 2011 which was 4.5tcf and the second that by ENI in Block 6 which found between three and four tcf, although the latter was never officially confirmed. Drilling in Onisiforos also found gas but it was not commercially viable. In the end the island’s EEZ is proving quite rich in deposits of natural gas, even though the impression given is that one big find would be much more preferable to several smaller fields scattered in different part of the EEZ.

Exploration in the Cypriot EEZ has still to yield a big find like that of the Zohr gas field (30tcf) or Israel’s Leviathan (16tcf), but as the regional vice-president of ExxonMobil, Tristan Aspray said, “we are at the start of a long journey.” Aspray considered it very important that one out of two exploratory drillings was successful – drilling at Delphine-1 was unsuccessful – but he also added a note of caution by saying that the findings of the drilling would be evaluated over the next few months. Aspray also dampened the enthusiasm regarding the setting up of a LNG terminal, which is the government’s objective, saying that for a terminal to be viable 10 to 15tcf were required.

According to oil industry sources, ExxonMobil does not deal with small gas fields, often selling them to other companies, but there will be more drilling on which its decisions will be based. If there is one thing we have learned about the oil and gas industry is that it works at its own, rather slow pace, because countless factors – many of them changing – have to be taken into account before firm decision are taken. It suffices to say that Israel expects to start using the gas discovered in Leviathan in 2010, only in the final quarter of this year.

The announcement by ExxonMobil-Qatar Petroleum was positive, but there is still a long way to go before the decision for the commercial exploitation of the gas in Glafcos-1 is taken. As Aspray said, this was the start of a long journey.


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