Aiming for energy hub status and hoping to reboot an economy hobbled by a debt bailout, Cyprus started talks with three energy firms on Wednesday for the development of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal.
The terminal, with an estimated cost of $6 billion, will process the vast natural gas reserves off the east Mediterranean island.
Based on its current time-frame, Cyprus hopes to start exports by 2020.
“Completion of this project is an important step toward the realization of our energy strategy, with the ultimate objective [being] the establishment of Cyprus as a regional energy hub,” Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said at a ceremony where a project memorandum of understanding was signed.
Cyprus discovered an average 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in December 2011 in one field offshore, close to where Israel reported major finds within its own maritime boundaries.
US company Noble Energy and Israeli companies Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration, which are the dominant players in both the Cypriot and Israeli projects, will over the next six months discuss the technical and commercial details of any eventual deal on an LNG terminal.
The sides hope to conclude talks by December 31.
Noble launched an appraisal drilling on its Cypriot offshore find last month, while Total and ENI are poised to launch exploratory drills elsewhere off Cyprus by 2015.