After Noble Energy said exploratory drilling off the coast of the island could yield between three trillion and nine trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas, Turkey announced that its state-run oil company is close to a deal for both onshore and offshore exploration with Dutch energy giant Shell. Turkey’s Energy Minister told the Hürriyet Daily News that the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) and Shell will sign the agreement on November 23. Under the joint operation agreement, the exploration will cover the maritime areas of the southern province of Antalya.
Maps published in Turkish media showed that one of areas included in the agreement lies west of Cyprus, as close as 22 nautical miles south of the Akamas peninsula.
The move comes amid a dispute between Nicosia and Ankara over exploration rights on seas surrounding the divided island. The government began exploration off its southeastern shore earlier this fall, a move that Turkey says violates the rights of Turkish Cypriots. Turkey responded by conducting its own seismic studies on potential oil and gas reserves off the coast of the divided island.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly assured EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule that Turkish warships would not harass Noble Energy’s drilling platform. Turkish Cypriot daily Haberdar reported the deal would be signed on November 26 in Kyrenia. Attending the signing ceremony would be Yildiz, TPAO’s deputy-director and Shell representatives, the paper said, which claimed also that the ceremony would take place at Kyrenia’s Acapulco hotel.
As Nicosia prepares to launch a second offshore gas licensing round, Noble has proposed building an LNG plant on the island for processing and storing gas from both Israeli and Cypriot prospects. At an analysts conference held in Houston, Texas, earlier this week Noble presented a number of alternatives for exploiting gas reserves in the Mediterranean.