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    Turkish Petroleum Clarifies Cyprus Drilling Plans


The plans will not ease the controversy over drilling rights around the island.

by: David O'Byrne

Posted in:

Natural Gas & LNG News, Europe, Exploration & Production, East Med Focus, Cyprus, Turkey

Turkish Petroleum Clarifies Cyprus Drilling Plans

Turkish Petroleum has clarified to Natural Gas World its plans for drilling in areas that the Republic of Cyprus claims as its exclusive economic zone.

Turkish Petroleum (TP) CEO Melih Han Bilgin explained that the company plans to drill in the area north west of the island. The first drilling is expected to happen in the summer at the earliest.

The comments appear to contradict reports from mid-February quoting Turkey’s foreign minister. Mevlut Cavusoglu said that drilling would commence in March in an area south of the island.

Bilgin did not identify the precise location or the date of the planned drilling, but did confirm that TP's survey ship, Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha, is currently surveying to the south of the island, in a region bordering blocks 8 and 12, of Cyprus' exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Cypriot government has awarded those blocks to Eni and Noble Energy respectively.

TP will later survey west of the island, Bilgin said. The CEO explained that data retrieved from these areas will take some time to analyse and so will not form the basis for any immediate drilling plans.

Cavusoglu's statement had to some extent contradicted one made a week earlier by the economy and energy minister of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) Ozdil Nami. He was reported by the TRNC's official information office to have said that TP's exploration vessel Fatih would start drilling offshore this month.

Cavusoglu was speaking at an election rally ahead of Turkish local elections on March 31. The governing AK party is expected to come under pressure in the vote following a year in which the Lira has lost 40% of its value against the US dollar and inflation has soared to over 20%.

According to marinetraffic.com, Fatih is currently operating in the Gulf of Antalya, where it began drilling in November. Turkish energy minister Fatih Donmez said that the first well was expected to take 150 days, and that the ship would drill two wells each year, according to reports.

TP recently took delivery of a second deep water drill ship. The Marshall Islands registered Deepsea Metro 1 is currently at anchor close to Istanbul, where it is believed to be being fitted out.

Turkey and Cyprus have long been at odds over a number of issues related to the de facto division of the island into the Republic of Cyprus and the internationally unrecognised Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. The delineation of their respective maritime zones, and ongoing offshore exploration programmes, has put a further strain on relations.

Turkey does not recognise Cyprus' claims for its maritime EEZ, and claims its own zone which overlaps with that of Cyprus to the west of the island. That affects blocks 16 and 17, as well as the northern parts of block 4, 5 and 6, of the Republic of Cyprus’ EEZ.

At the same time Ankara recognises the claim of the TRNC to a large part of the waters to the north and east of the island, including blocks 8 and 9 and the northern part of block 12 and holds that revenues from any exploration within that EEZ should be shared with the government of the TRNC.

Block 12 contains the 200bn m3 Aphrodite gas field, which is being developed by Noble Energy. Eni holds exploration rights to blocks 8 and 9, as well as block 6 where it recently reported a gas discovery. 

Block 10, which is being developed by ExxonMobil, is not disputed. The US giant is expected to announce drilling results imminently.