Cyprus to launch new hydrocarbons licensing

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus plans to launch a new licensing round for hydrocarbons in offshore blocks in the eastern Mediterranean on July 1, a senior energy official said yesterday. «We intend, subject to the approval of the Council of Ministers, to announce a second exploration round on July 1,» said Solon Kassinis, head of Cyprus’s energy service at the Cypriot Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The government had announced its first licensing round in 2007. The number of offshore blocks subject to licensing in the new round was not disclosed. Cyprus’s first attempt to tap speculated deepwater reserves in the eastern Mediterranean last year angered its northern neighbor Turkey, which invaded the Mediterranean island in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup. «The second round will be for the blocks left from the first (licensing) round,» Kassinis told Reuters. The precise number of blocks available in the second round would be known when the licensing process for the first round is completed, he said. War-divided Cyprus had offered 11 blocks in total in last year’s licensing round, getting bids for three of the blocks from companies based in the US, Britain, Norway and the United Arab Emirates. Turkey, which supports a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state in the island’s north, had argued that the move could further entrench a stalemate in reunification efforts over Cyprus.