Cyprus: new gas deposit too small to exploit, hopes for more

Cyprus' Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis talks to the media during a press conference at the Energy ministry in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Lakkotrypis says exploratory drilling off the island's southern coast has discovered a small gas deposit that contains "less than" 0.5 trillion cubic feet of the hydrocarbon, not enough to make it commercially viable. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Cyprus' Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis talks to the media during a press conference at the Energy ministry in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Lakkotrypis says exploratory drilling off the island's southern coast has discovered a small gas deposit that contains "less than" 0.5 trillion cubic feet of the hydrocarbon, not enough to make it commercially viable. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Cyprus' Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis is seen through a camera monitor, talks to the media during a press conference at the Energy ministry in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Lakkotrypis says exploratory drilling off the island's southern coast has discovered a small gas deposit that contains "less than" 0.5 trillion cubic feet of the hydrocarbon, not enough to make it commercially viable. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA, Cyprus — A gas field discovered off Cyprus that contains "less than" 0.5 trillion cubic feet of the hydrocarbon is too small to make it commercially viable on its own, Cyprus' energy minister said Tuesday.

But Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said the fact that gas was found in an area whose geological make-up is similar to that where a huge discovery was made off Egypt offers "encouraging signs" that more could be found in Cypriot waters.

"We're not disappointed with this drilling," Lakkotrypis told reporters. "It leaves us optimistic for the future."

Exploratory drilling at the "Onisiforos" well was conducted by a consortium made up of French energy company Total and Italy's Eni. Lakkotrypis said the consortium is obligated by contract to notify Cypriot authorities within 30 days whether they'll go ahead with more exploratory drilling in Block 11.

Block 11 sits near Egypt's Zohr gas field, discovered by Eni in 2015, which holds an estimated 30 trillion cubic feet of gas and is the biggest gas field ever found in the Mediterranean.

The block is one of eight areas where major oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil, hold licenses to carry out exploratory drilling off Cyprus' southern coast. ExxonMobil officials have said they would start drilling in the second half of next year.

"The significance of the Onisiforos drilling is that it proved that the Zohr-type geological model works," said Lakkotrypis. "This raises prospects about the geological structures found in other Blocks that are similar in nature to Zohr and Onisiforos."

In earlier drilling, Texas-based Noble Energy discovered a field off Cyprus estimated to contain over 4 trillion cubic feet in reserves.

Lakkotrypis said the Cypriot government's aim is to build a gas processing plant on the island where the hydrocarbon can be liquefied for export, as long as enough reserves are discovered to merit the huge investment.

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