France’s Total on 6 February signed a production sharing contract (PSC) with the government of Cyprus, bringing to a close Cyprus’ second exploration block licensing round. The French major will conduct a 2D seismic survey of Block 10 and a 3D survey of Block 11, according to Arnaud Breuillac, the company’s senior vice president for Middle East exploration and production. Total indicates that work in each block will target different plays. In mid-January, a joint venture of Italy’s Eni and South Korea’s Kogas signed PSCs with the Cypriot authorities for Blocks 2, 3 and 9. US independent Noble Energy and its Israeli partners are set to drill a second appraisal well at the Aphrodite field in Block 12 by July ahead of the October expiry of its exploration and production (E&P) deal.

With six of Cyprus’ offshore blocks now under contract, industry attention is focused on the Turkish response. Turkey, which occupies the northern third of Cyprus and does not recognize the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia, has warned international oil companies against participating in Cyprus’ licensing round. Three oil majors – Shell, ExxonMobil and BP – did not participate in the first or second bid Cyprus round, possibly wary of Turkey’s reaction in light of ongoing E&P projects in the latter. It it is unclear if Ankara is prepared to take punitive action against Total or Eni, both of which have operations in Turkey. MEES understands that Turkey has limited ability to target Total and Eni’s major transnational pipeline projects. However, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told the Turkish daily Hürriyet, in November: “If Eni goes into such a thing, then we will think over their Turkey investments. As you know, it has a share in the Samsun-Ceyhan [pipeline], and of course we might put this on our agenda” (MEES, November 2012). (CONTINUED - 302 WORDS)