Developments are expected soon over the exploitation of Cyprus’ natural gas fields, given the large increase in natural gas prices internationally, Energy Minister Natasa Pilides said on Thursday.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, she said Cyprus could play a role in Europe’s energy supply either through its own gas reserves or through the electricity interconnection projects that aim to connect Cyprus with Europe.

Asked whether the developments in Ukraine can accelerate the development of Cyprus’ confirmed gas deposits, Pilides pointed out that the government definitely encourages companies operating in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in that direction.

“We expect the Chevron consortium to come up with specific suggestions for the Aphrodite deposit. We hope that the right synergies have been found in relation to either Israel or Egypt in order to achieve a more optimistic timetable, given the current opportunities,” she said, adding that they expect to see developments in Aphrodite between the end of March and the beginning of April.

Pilides also stressed that Cyprus is in consultations with the EU and supports the position that it can play a role in EU’s energy supply.

She said by the end of March the ExxonMobil – Qatar Energy consortium will complete the appraisal drilling in Cyprus’ block 10, which is estimated to carry a reservoir between 5 and 8 trillion cubic feet, and the results are awaited to increase the confirmed gas deposits of Cyprus.

At the same time, she noted that the Eni-Total consortium will proceed with a drilling within the year, while seismic work will begin on block 5 by ExxonMobil to see if there is an interconnection with block 10 and if there are prospects in that area.

Asked whether she was concerned about the recent Turkey-Israel rapprochement and whether she thought it would deprive Cyprus of some opportunities in the energy sector, the Minister pointed out that Cyprus’ co-operation with Israel is excellent.

“Our plans are not being thwarted,” she said, adding that she would meet with her counterpart in Israel on April 11 where they will continue the discussion they had in Egypt.

The minister also noted the importance the EU attaches to the electricity interconnection project of Cyprus with Europe.

The implementation of the EuroAsia Interconnector, the interconnection between Cyprus and Crete, was progressing rapidly, she said while the Crete-Attica interconnection was already advanced. The goal is to connect with the European market at the first stage, while in the second stage the Cyprus-Israel pipeline will be built. Then, she added, the EuroAfrica Interconnector will connect Egypt with Cyprus.

Pilides stressed that the project for the interconnection secured an EU grant of €657 million, out of a total of €800 million.

“The EU has really supported Cyprus in this area as it recognises the importance of interconnection,” she said.

The goal, she added, was to start the construction of the pipeline at the end of 2022, which will enable the Cyprus-Crete interconnection to be implemented by 2026.

The interconnections, she explained, mean much greater energy security, while there will be the possibility of importing and exporting energy, giving impetus to more investments in renewables and new technologies.

“With these new technologies we can increase our contribution in terms of our own energy supply and export,” she said.