Critical Issue for Cyprus Exploration Progress

Some analysts say Cyprus could become an East Med energy hub. Others, more realistically, see Egypt taking that role, leaving Cyprus as a regional service centre. But even the more limited goal will not be met, companies say, if they are not allowed more space to operate.

The Cypriot government has approved the development of Vasilikos, the site of the proposed LNG plant on the southern coast, as a dedicated energy port. But this will not be ready until 2023. Until then, energy sector companies will share space at the island’s main commercial port, Limassol. And it is proving to be a tight fit.

Alessandro Barberis, managing director of Eni Cyprus, says “currently, we as operators are forced to use the only oil and gas space available, at Limassol port. It is not enough if simultaneous drilling operations are under way. The Vasilikos port project is targeted for 2023, but we need to think of the medium term.” Dalio Vitale of Halliburton agrees: “Vasiliko is important, but it’s five years away. We need something in the shorter term.

Varnavas Theodossiou, head of ExxonMobil in Cyprus praises the island’s stable investment climate, well-defined legal system and robust tax regime. But he, too, is frustrated by the cramped working conditions. “Maybe Cyprus can expand Limassol port, maybe we can use Larnaca,” he says. “But the current port situation is not sustainable for operators.”

In the view of Yves Grosjean, general manager of Total, Cyprus should put aside any notion of becoming an energy hub — that would take five-to-10 years to achieve. “However,” he adds, “when we talk about an oil and gas service centre we are talking about an urgent need that won’t go away.” Space is needed without delay because “in some cases there are up to 20 different companies working with one operator for drilling one well”.

Jorgen Berg managing director of Schlumberger Cyprus, says it is “important to assess the needs of the industry, and certainly a port is one of those needs. If the issue is not addressed adequately, then “we as operators will follow our own interests elsewhere”. Other deep-water ports such as Malta could fit the bill. Cyprus’ “advantageous position will not last for ever”. As it is, the lack of space seems certain to slow down IOCs’ drilling schedules, with Eni-Total planning five wells at the end of this year, ExxonMobil two next year. It is hard not to see a queue forming at Limassol port.

Source: Petroleum Economist