Cyprus sees large gas signature bonuses

Cyprus plans to collect as much as 300 million euros ($374 million) in signature bonuses from energy companies that have bid to explore for natural gas off the Mediterranean island?s south coast.

Neoklis Sylikiotis, the Cypriot minister for commerce, industry and tourism, said negotiations with the 15 companies that applied for licenses to explore nine offshore blocks may begin as soon as October and last as long as 10 months.

Australia?s Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Petroliam Nasional Bhd of Malaysia were among the companies that expressed interest after US producer Noble Energy Inc said in December that it had found as much as 8 trillion cubic feet of gas off Cyprus, the country?s first such discovery.

Sylikiotis said Noble will conduct a second round of exploratory drilling early next year and will begin to produce gas by 2017 to supply the Cypriot market.

It could also start to export gas by 2019, after Cyprus completes a planned liquefaction terminal, he said in an interview.