Cyprus Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said on Wednesday that Italy’s ENI, France’s Total, and Qatar Petroleum with American ExxonMobil – headed by US president-elect Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson – are the energy firms that will negotiate licenses to explore for oil and gas in three blocks within the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on its southern coast.
Lakkotrypis has insisted there is no connection between the energy developments and the ongoing reunification talks between Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, but several analysts say it’s clear that investments in Cyprus’s energy fields by big players like the US would be boosted by a politically unified country which could become an energy transport hub.
According to sources, Tillerson played an active role in the company’s effort to secure its status as bidder for Block 10 and held talks with Cyprus officials, including Anastasiades in September in New York. Natural gas also featured prominently in discussions during the recent visit to the island by French President Francois Hollande.
ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum were selected to bid for Block 10 while ENI and Total were chosen as bidders for Block 6. ENI was the preferred company for Block 8. Lakkotrypis said the hope is for negotiations to be completed by February.
The level of interest expressed by the world’s energy giants is an indication, according to Cypriot officials, of the prospects of the three blocks.
“This gives us guarded optimism,” Lakkotrypis said.
The first find off the coast of Cyprus was made by US company Noble Energy in 2011 in the Aphrodite field. Cyprus aims to begin exporting gas by 2022.