Cyprus to licence ENI, Kogas for offshore gas search

Cyprus will issue licenses to a consortium comprised of Italy's ENI and South Korea's Kogas on Thursday for the exploration of hydrocarbons in three areas off the east Mediterranean island, its energy minister told Reuters.

"It is very important because we are moving ahead with development of our reserves," said Neoclis Sylikiotis, who is Cyprus's Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister.

A signing ceremony was scheduled on Thursday morning, he said. Separate talks with France's Total which is also bidding for a license elsewhere were proceeding well and Sylikiotis said he hoped for a conclusion soon.

Cyprus, which reported its first natural gas find in Dec. 2011, hopes the prospect of sitting on sizeable reserves of natural gas will be a boon for its economy, struggling from its exposure to debt-crippled Greece.

Noble Energy says it has discovered between 5 and 8 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas in one offshore block. Thursday's signing ceremony with ENI and Kogas concerns another three blocks, two of which lie diagonally above the area where gas has already been discovered.

"There are very strong indications of gas, and possibly oil, in the area," said Sylikiotis.

The island is located in the resource-rich but largely untapped Levant Basin, where neighboring Israel has reported some of the world's largest natural gas finds of the past decade. [Reuters]