The government anticipates a speedy development of the natural gas finds in Block 6 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Energy Minister Natasa Pilides said on Monday.

She was speaking to reporters coming out of a meeting at the presidential palace between President Nicos Anastasiades and representatives of TotalEnergies, headed by Laurent Vivier, the French multinational’s Senior Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa.

Queried about the discovery of two natural gas reservoirs in Block 6 – licensed to a joint venture of Total and ENI – Pilides said the government was in talks with the companies.

“It is still too early to have a specific plan, but certainly the intensive activity relating to the actions needed to be taken in 2023 will continue, and I think the whole process will move forward quite speedily.”

Block 6 is operated by ENI, holding 50 per cent stake, with TotalEnergies as a partner.

Back in August, ENI had announced a gas find after drilling at the Cronos-1 well, the second such find in the same block following the Calypso-1 well in 2018. Preliminary estimates at Cronos-1 indicated about 2.5 trillion cubic feet of gas in place.

“We discussed the company’s [i.e. Total’s] commitment, as well as their optimism relating to the Cypriot EEZ and the prospects for supplying Europe with natural gas from Cyprus,” Pilides noted.

On whether Total and ENI would carry out further exploratory and/or appraisal drilling at other locations, the energy minister commented only that this was “possible.”

Regarding the Aphrodite reservoir in Block 12, discovered in late 2011, Pilides said there was nothing new at the moment.

“We’re in constant contact with the company [Chevron] regarding the development plan, which is in the final stages, and we expect news very soon.”

On talks with Israel regarding the dispute between Aphrodite and the adjacent Ishai prospect, Pilides said discussions on a technocratic level are ongoing. The Cypriot side has sent the Israeli government some documents, and the exchange of views continues.

Answering a follow-up question, the minister said the transfer of Aphrodite’s gas to liquefaction terminals in Egypt remains the “prevalent scenario.”

But she also added that the government has begun talks with all the companies licensed in the EEZ “in order to explore possible synergies between Blocks 6 and 7, and Blocks 5 and 10.

Blocks 5 and 10 are licensed to ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum.

“So, we shall see whether such a possibility exists, and plans may be amended accordingly if the companies are open to finding and making use of such synergies.”

Pilides also revealed that Total has plans for a major investment in renewables on the island – specifically a solar park.

She said the government has some figures in mind relating to the park’s capacity but declined to give details at this time.

The project would require a number of permits before being implemented. The energy and commerce ministry operates a ‘one-stop shop’ for renewables to facilitate such investments.

Pilides said the mooted project in question will cover a large share of renewables’ penetration in Cyprus’ energy mix, given the megawatts to be generated.