ExxonMobil, Qatar Petroleum sign drilling deal with Cyprus

By Menelaos Hadjicostis, Associated Press

ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum on Wednesday signed an agreement with Cyprus to carry out exploratory drilling off the east Mediterranean island's southern coast, where officials hope sizeable deposits of oil and gas could be found.

Qatar Petroleum chief executive Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, left, ExxonMobil Senior Vice President Andrew Swiger, center, and Cyprus' Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, right, attend a signing ceremony at the Presidential palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, April 5, 2017. ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum have signed a deal with Cyprus to carry out exploratory drilling off the east Mediterranean island's southern coast. Al-Kaabi said after signing ceremony that drilling will begin in the first half of 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum on Wednesday signed an agreement with Cyprus to carry out exploratory drilling off the east Mediterranean island's southern coast, where officials hope sizeable deposits of oil and gas could be found.

Qatar Petroleum Chief Executive Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi said the area, or block, where the partnership is licensed to explore has "good prospects."

"We think that there is a strong possibility that there is a structure there that could potentially hold hydrocarbons," Al-Kaabi told The Associated Press.

Al-Kaabi said a first exploration well is scheduled to be drilled in the first half of 2018.

ExxonMobil Senior Vice President Andrew Swiger said three-dimensional seismic surveys will first be carried to determine the best drilling locations within Block 10. That's one of eight such areas which Cyprus has licensed out for exploratory drilling to oil and gas companies including Italy's Eni SpA and France's Total.

It's the first time that ExxonMobil has looked for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean, where recent large finds in Egyptian and Israeli waters have raised hopes that more could be found.

"The strategic significance of ExxonMobil's and Qatar Petroleum's presence in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus for the first time, in the Eastern Mediterranean region, is immense," said Cyprus Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis.

Last month, Eni Chief Exploration Officer Luca Bertelli told an oil and gas conference here that his company's discovery of the Zohr field off Egypt, which is estimated to told 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, has reinvigorated the interest of other major oil and gas companies in the region.

In earlier drilling in Cypriot waters, Texas-based Noble Energy discovered a field estimated to contain over four trillion cubic feet in reserves.

Meanwhile, Eni and Total will on Thursday sign new exploration agreements for two other blocks.

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