Exploratory drilling for natural gas off Cyprus now underway by Eni-Total should take 60 days, Energy Minister Natasa Pilides said on Tuesday as EU Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum that new LNG terminals in Greece, Cyprus and Poland that will become operational ‘soon’ and would enhance the EU’s energy security.

The Eni-Total consortium has started exploratory drilling at the Cronos-1 site of the offshore block 6 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Work was initially due to start in 2020 but was put on hold because of the Covid-19 situation. The consortium secured the concession in 2017 during Cyprus’ third licensing round.

Speaking to CyBC, Pilides said the exploratory drilling should take about six months. The next Eni-Total drilling will depend on the outcome, but drilling is scheduled at Cyprus’ Aphrodite field – the first confirmed gas reserves – by Chevron in the summer, she added. Work to locate natural gas is also expected in blocks 5 and 10.

Pilides expressed the hope that the development of block 6 – where exploratory drilling by Eni in 2018 has already led to the discovery of the Calypso field – would be included in the EU’s plans to end reliance on Russia’s natural gas.

EU energy security figured prominently in the speech the EU Commission president delivered to the World Economic Forum at Davos on Tuesday against the shadow of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Noting that Russia was weaponising its energy supplies, Van der Leyen said that Moscow had tried to put the pressure on the EU, for example by cutting off gas deliveries to Poland, Bulgaria and Finland. “This war and this behaviour have only strengthened Europe’s resolve to get rid of Russian fossil fuels rapidly,” she said.

Europe has to diversify away from fossil fuels both because of the climate crisis and due to geopolitical considerations, she added.

“We have already set our course towards climate neutrality. Now, we must accelerate our clean energy transition. Fortunately, we already have in place the means to do so,” she said.

The European Green Deal is already ambitious. But now, the EU is taking its ambition to yet another level with REPowerEU, a €300 billion plan to phase out Russian fossil fuels and fast forward the green transition, she said.

Today, almost a quarter of the energy consumed in Europe stems from renewable sources. Through REPowerEU, this share will rise to 45 per cent in 2030.

“This is only possible by also bringing cross-border cooperation to a new level,” the Commission president said, citing as an example the decision of four European countries last week to quadruple their offshore wind capacity in the North Sea by 2030.

That will mean wind farms in the North Sea will cover the annual energy consumption of more than 50 million homes – roughly one quarter of all European households.

“This is the right way to go. Renewable energy is our springboard towards net-zero CO2 emissions. It is good for the climate. And it is good for our independence and security of energy supply,” she said.

The same is true for the diversification of the EU’s gas supply, another pillar of REPowerEU. Europe is concluding new agreements with reliable, trustworthy suppliers all over the world. “In March, I agreed with President Biden to significantly step-up LNG deliveries from the US to Europe. More LNG and pipeline gas will also come from the Middle East and North Africa. New LNG terminals in Greece, Cyprus and Poland will soon become operational, as will new interconnectors,” she said.