NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — ExxonMobil, Qatar Petroleum and Capricorn Oil are among eight companies that have applied for a license to carry out exploratory oil and gas drilling in waters off Cyprus' southern coast, the Cypriot government said Wednesday.
These companies are seeking to drill in three neighboring blocks, or areas, as part of a third licensing round whose deadline expired last week.
France's Total and Italy's Eni have teamed up to apply jointly for blocks 6 and 10. Eni is seeking a license on its own for block 8 for which a consortium made up of Capricorn Oil — a subsidiary of the U.K.'s Cairn energy — and Israeli companies Delek and Avner has also applied.
Dutch Statoil Upsilon and a consortium composed of ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum International Upstream have also applied for block 10.
Total and Eni had been granted drilling licenses in previous rounds, as had Delek and Avner as part of a consortium with Texas-based Noble Energy.
Noble found a gas field off Cyprus estimated to contain more than four trillion cubic feet in reserves.
A discovery by Eni of a gas field in adjacent Egyptian waters last year that's been touted as the largest ever gas find in the Mediterranean sea has lifted hopes that more deposits could be found in Cypriot waters.
Eni Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi said this month that exploratory drilling inside Cypriot waters where the company is already licensed to do so will begin next year.
Both Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the leader of the ethnically divided island's breakaway Turkish Cypriots, Mustafa Akinci, have said that future oil and gas revenues could partly finance the huge cost of a reunification deal the two men are negotiating.
But Akinci has warned that the start of drilling before a deal is reached could renew tensions.