ECONOMY

Cyprus studies LNG export expansion

Cyprus is studying an expansion of planned natural gas export capacity to help revive economic growth.

The country may build as many as five liquefied natural gas production lines, or trains, in addition to a planned $12 billion, three-train terminal near Limassol, according to Cyprus National Hydrocarbons Co, in charge of all gas developments.

Extra gas for the plants could come from nearby countries.

“Three trains won’t be enough,” Chief Executive Officer Charles Ellinas said by telephone. “We may have land available for eight trains, to also make sure we can accommodate gas from Israel and Lebanon.”

Cyprus plans to start LNG exports in 2020 after it invited international companies to explore offshore. Gas shipments are part of a plan to boost the sputtering economy following a 10-billion-euro bailout agreement with European partners and the International Monetary Fund this year.

The government in June approved a framework for negotiating construction of the first terminal with Houston-based Noble Energy Inc and Israel’s Delek Drilling LP and Avner Oil Exploration LLP.

A company will be set up this year to run the plant and arrange LNG sales starting early in 2014, Ellinas said.

Total SA and Eni SpA have Cypriot exploration licenses too and are “keen on joining the LNG project,” Ellinas said.

Total, which has rights to Blocks 10 and 11, may also be interested in working with Noble at Block 12, he said.

ENI announced on Thursday it will start exploratory drilling for natural gas off Cyprus in the second half of 2014. [Bloomberg]