Energy Minister George Papanastasiou conceded on Tuesday that Cyprus cannot become an energy hub in the eastern Mediterranean, as it lacks the necessary infrastructures.

He made the remarks during the EMC 2023 – Eastern Mediterranean Conference & Exhibition taking place in Limassol. The event will run until Thursday.

“I believe that given their track record, Egypt and Israel are far ahead [of Cyprus] in natural gas resources and because of the infrastructures already in use,” the minister said.

His take marked a departure from the rhetoric heard on and off over the past decade, after former energy minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis in 2013 first spoke of the island becoming a regional energy hub.

Elsewhere in his presentation, Papanastasiou spoke on ‘Gas to Power’ – the Cypriot government’s plan that includes actions to reshape the island’s energy mix.

He noted that liquefied natural gas will be imported to generate electricity for the domestic market via Cygas (Natural Gas Public Corporation) while Cyprus will increase its renewable energy production which it could export through the EuroAsia Interconnector cable connecting the island to Greece and Israel.

“Synergies are the magic word,” he said.

With natural gas having a smaller “lifespan” due to climate goals and the shift to renewables, the minister stated, “we understand that synergies are what investors seek.”

On the offshore gas discoveries, Papanastasiou said the top option remains to transport the gas to Egypt – for either domestic consumption there or for re-export.

Also taking part in the conference was Kimberly Harrington, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Energy Resources, US State Department.

Despite the current difficult juncture, Harrington said, the United States remains committed to regional cooperation, especially on energy.

The US official made special mention of energy initiatives such as the 3+1 platform – featuring Cyprus, Greece, Israel and the United States – and the East Mediterranean Gas Forum.

She likewise said energy partnerships are key, adding that no other region embodies this approach like the eastern Mediterranean.

Harrington said the development of Cyprus’ natural resources would benefit not only the island, but the region at large.

For his part, Wissam Chbat of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration spoke of Lebanon’s offshore gas potential, adding that Egypt has what it takes to become a hub for the eastern Med.

In her own remarks, head of the Cyprus Hydrocarbons Company Toula Onoufriou said that to date some 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas have been discovered in five separate reservoirs offshore Cyprus.

Onoufriou said that four of the five discoveries – Calypso, Kronos and Dias, all in Block 6 – as well as the Glafcos discovery in Block 10 are currently in the assessment stage. The Aphrodite reservoir in Block 12 is in the ‘select’ stage – meaning in the stage of determining how to commercially exploit it.