Cyprus to talk oil and gas relations with Lebanon

Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias will pay an official visit to Lebanon on Thursday to discuss the prospect of cooperation in the exploitation of offshore oil and gas.

Christofias will hold talks with Lebanon President Michel Suleiman “to review economic issues and growth prospects that are opening up in the region in relation to the discovery of large reserves of hydrocarbons,” an official announcement said on Monday.

Cyprus has forged ahead with its own energy search but is anxious to conclude demarcation agreements on maritime exclusive economic zones (EEZ) with its neighbors.

In the past, Cyprus has signed delineation agreements with Egypt, Israel and Lebanon to pave the way for exploiting hydrocarbon deposits that crisscross their boundaries. But an agreement has been held up in the Lebanese parliament due to Beirut’s own dispute with Israel over sea borders.

Exploratory drilling conducted by Houston-based Noble Energy in Block 12 of Cyprus’s EEZ indicates a gross natural gas reserve of up to 254.9 billion cubic meters (9 trillion cubic feet). Noble expects to commercially extract and transfer the natural gas to Cyprus shores by late 2018. And Nicosia is negotiating with Italian giants ENI, France’s Total and South Korea’s Kogas for permits to drill for gas and oil in other blocks off Cyprus. Cyprus hopes its energy bonanza can eventually help pull it out of recession and tackle its huge debt which has forced it to seek an EU bailout.