French energy giant Total wants to expand its search for oil and gas off the east Mediterranean coast of Cyprus, a senior company official said on Monday.
“We applied as well to enter block 8 owned by ENI and wanted to come to support that demand which is currently examined by the minister," Total regional director Stephane Michel told reporters after talks with President Nicos Anastasiades.
Block 8 is licensed to Italy's ENI for exploration and now Total wants to be a part of that venture - it has already joined forces with the Italian firm ENI in two blocks off Cyprus.
"An extremely important development that strengthens the consortium in this block and expands its presence in the EEZ of Cyprus"
Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis said there had been "constructive discussions about the next steps" for Total in Cyprus' economic exclusive zone (EEZ).
He welcomed the move by Total as "an extremely important development that strengthens the consortium in this block and expands its presence in the EEZ of Cyprus".
In February, a drillship contracted by ENI to explore off the Mediterranean island, abandoned the mission, after Turkish warships blocked its path to its target in Block 3 of Cyprus’ Economic Exclusive Zone.
"After everything that has happened in block 3, we see one of the most important partners of the Republic of Cyprus wanting to expand its presence within the EEZ, especially in a block such as 8, which, above all, is unexplored," said Lakkotrypis.
He said three-dimensional surveys were made of block 8 and "currently they are being processed to determine the targets".
Monday's discussions in Nicosia were seen as a follow-up to the talks Italian ENI’s CEO Claudio Descalzi had in Cyprus last month, as ENI and Total are consortium partners in blocks 11 and 6 of the Cypriot EEZ.
An exploratory drill conducted in block six in January 2017 revealed a “promising discovery” with geological structures similar of those in the nearby giant Zohr gas field in the Egyptian EEZ.
No official data concerning the Calypso field's reservoir have been disclosed and Lakkotrypis said the government was Still waiting for an independent estimate of the untapped quantities in block 6.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned foreign energy companies not to "overstep the mark" in the Mediterranean after Turkey's warships blocked an Italian drilling vessel on February 9.
The standoff over exploiting energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean has further complicated stalled efforts to reunify Cyprus following the collapse of UN-brokered peace talks last year.
Brussels has also censured Turkey for its behaviour towards Nicosia's energy search.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of the island in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup.
Nicosia is also in discussion with Cairo to build a direct submarine natural gas pipeline from Cyprus to an LNG plant in Egypt,
US energy giant ExxonMobil – with Qatar Petroleum - is scheduled to conduct drilling off Cyprus in the second half of 2018.
Texas-based Noble Energy in 2011 made the first discovery off Cyprus in the Aphrodite block estimated to contain around 4.5 trillion cubic feet of gas - it has yet to be commercialised.