Total may abandon Cyprus oil, gas search: minister

Total ‘has not found any geological structures or targets to continue its obligations’

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French energy giant Total is expected to abandon its search for oil and gas off Cyprus after failing to find any significant targets for exploratory drilling, Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis said Wednesday.

Total “has not found any geological structures or targets to continue its obligations” in the blocks it is licensed to exploit, Lakkotrypis said.

“There will be a final decision next week, as there are contractual obligations,” he added in remarks to state radio.

The minister said a pullout would be based on the question of commercial viability and not Turkish threats to prevent Cyprus looking for energy.

Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 in response to an Athens-engineered coup aimed at uniting it with Greece.

Cyprus has suspended U.N.-led peace talks over claims Ankara is persisting in trying to hamper the energy search.

Nicosia is unhappy that Ankara is determined to search for oil and gas in the same region where the government has licensed explorations in its exclusive economic zone.

Turkey opposes the government’s exploitation of offshore energy reserves before a deal is reached to solve the decades-long division of the eastern Mediterranean island.

The news about Total puts a dent in Nicosia’s attempt to become a regional energy player and comes after Italian-Korean energy consortium ENI-Kogas said its first test drill had come up dry.

U.S. firm Noble Energy made the first find offshore in 2011 in Block 12 of the Aphrodite field, which is estimated to contain between 3.6 trillion and 6 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Cyprus needs to find more reserves to make a planned land terminal financially viable as it seeks to become a regional exporter.

It has ambitions of becoming a regional gas hub for its own as well as Israeli and even Lebanese exports. Energy-starved Egypt is also banking on Cyprus tapping greater reserves.

It has wanted to build a liquefied natural gas plant that would allow exports by ship to Asia and Europe, and has commissioned feasibility studies.

But it now seems there are not enough reserves to make that option feasible.

Cyprus is hoping to export its gas, and maybe oil, by 2022.

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