Cyprus invites new bids for oil and gas exploration

By Brien Southward

The island nation of Cyprus has invited companies to apply for a new round of oil and gas exploration licenses in its exclusive economic zone, the first such offer since 2007. At the time only the U.S. company Noble Energy expressed interest, but this time expectations are higher as Noble announced on December 28 that it had found up to 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off the island's southern coast.

Applicants for exploration permits will need to demonstrate an efficient and responsible record, according to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism. It will also be necessary for them to satisfy the financial and technical criteria to explore the island's newfound petroleum resources. According to a post on the Ministry's website, "applications may be submitted within 90 days of the date of publication of this notice in the Official Journal of the European Union."

The massive natural gas deposit is a first for Cyprus, which is split into an independent Greek-speaking southern half and a Turkish-controlled northern half which broke away in 1974. The Turkish government will naturally be keeping an eye on the development of Cyprus's newly-discovered natural resources, as the newfound wealth may affect the power balance of the island and could be a boon for Turkey's economy as well.

Despite so little investment in the years leading up to the recent announcement of the natural gas discovery, Cyprus is located significantly closer to Turkey and the Middle East than to Greece and Europe. Its proximity to so many major Middle Eastern petroleum-producing nations will likely grab the interest of the industry at large if the resources there prove significant, as Cyprus's location in the Mediterranean also opens up convenient shipping lanes to Europe and the West.

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