The East Mediterranean could become a hub to export gas to Europe – and the fastest and cheapest way to do that is to utilize idle processing plants in Egypt, a senior official for Italy's ENI said Wednesday.
ENI’s Chief Exploration Officer Luca Bertelli told a gas conference in Nicosia that his company’s recent discovery of a gas field southeast of Cyprus that contains “almost pure methane” has confirmed that there’s potential for more gas discoveries in the region.
He said the Italian company plans to search for more gas off Cyprus in two other areas where it’s licensed to carry out exploratory drilling.
Bertelli said that ExxonMobil’s expected drill in block 10 would be another test of the “Zohr like play.” At the same time, he said the ENI-Total consortium was assessing the existence of further prospects in Blocks 6 and 11 for potential drilling.
He added that the simplest way to process the gas for export – especially to the regional big markets, Greece and Turkey – is utilizing underused processing plants in Egypt to liquefy the mineral for transport.
“And this is the simple, faster, and logical way to monetarize the Eastern Mediterranean gas for export,” he said.
Bertelli said more gas discoveries are needed to ensure that there will be sufficient quantities over the long term and make planned projects like a pipeline linking the East Mediterranean with Europe viable.
He cautioned that “pragmatic, realistic” steps are needed in exploration because “the area is geopolitically complex.”
“I think we need to go step by step, to be pragmatic, realistic. The area is geopolitically complex, we need to find simple solutions and more pragmatic solutions to monetarize these resources."
The executive didn’t mention last month’s gambit by Turkish warships to block a ship from carrying out exploratory drilling southeast of Cyprus, where ENI is also licensed to drill.
Turkey insists there can’t be any “unilateral” gas searches by the Cyprus government without the direct involvement of breakaway Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus Energy Minister Energy Lakkotrypis said that gas exploration will continue despite “Turkey’s provocations.”
He said negotiations to sell gas to Egypt from the Aphrodite field are “at an advanced stage.”
ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum are also scheduled to drill southwest of Cyprus in the second half of this year.