Cyprus on Friday signed a natural gas exploration and production sharing contract for an offshore field in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with ExxonMobil and Qatar Energy. The two will start field work for seismic data acquisition in block 5 next year.

The agreement was signed at the presidential palace by Energy Minister Natasa Pilides, Ali Al-Mana, manager of Qatar Energy’s International Upstream and Exploration and Varnavas Theodossiou, lead country manager for ExxonMobil in Cyprus

Pilides hailed the ceremony as the culmination of a licensing process that officially began in June.

“With both the Government and the consortium having identified the geological prospects and the potential production synergies arising from licensing Block 5, and after careful examination by the Hydrocarbons Advisory Committee of the technical and economic aspects of ExxonMobil’s and Qatar Energy’s application, we proceeded to negotiate in good faith the terms of the Exploration and Production Sharing Contract that the Council of Ministers approved and we have just signed,” she added.

Despite the increasingly difficult working environment for the global oil and gas industry, this decisive step enhances a mutually beneficial partnership in Cyprus’ EEZ, she noted.

This is the tenth offshore block to be licensed by the Republic of Cyprus. The consortium has the rights for the adjoining Block 10.

“The Republic of Cyprus, in exercising its sovereign rights according to International Law, advances further the exploration of our EEZ and the consortium solidifies its presence in the very promising area of the Eastern Mediterranean,” she added.

ExxonMobil and Qatar Energy have already been very successful in their activities in Cyprus’ EEZ, Pilides said as the consortium, which was awarded an exploration licence for Block 10 in 2017, has made a 5 to 8 trillion cubic feet gas discovery at Glaucus – 1 well.

It is expected before the end of this year to be the first of Cyprus’ licensees to resume drilling activities, postponed over the past couple of years due to the pandemic, she added.

Pilides noted that both Al-Mana and Theodossiou had in a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades earlier on Friday Cyprus given assurances that they are fully committed to the EEZ of Cyprus. The consortium’s forthcoming appraisal well for the “Glaucus” discovery is part of their renewed and ambitious exploration programme, she said.

“They have also informed President Anastasiades of their intention to commence, in 2022, field work in Block 5 for seismic data acquisition,” she added.

In statements, Theodossiou said ExxonMobil and its partner Qatar Energy have a long and successful history of responsible resource development.

“We appreciate our strong working relationship with the Cyprus Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Industry, and we look forward to continue working with the government of Cyprus to evaluate and help realise the country’s hydrocarbon potential,” he said.

Block 5 is located southwest offshore of Cyprus, and is adjacent to Block 10, which is also licensed to the ExxonMobil-Qatar Energy consortium.

ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Cyprus (Offshore) Limited, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corporation, and Qatar Petroleum International Upstream LLC, a subsidiary of QatarEnergy, will carry out the work programme.