ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum (QP) formally signed their exploration and production-sharing contract for offshore block 10 with the Cypriot government April 5. It marks the entry of both gas giants into eastern Mediterranean exploration, in the wake of discoveries by other firms there.

Cyprus awarded block 10 to the duo in its third offshore licensing round in December 2016, along with blocks 6 and 8 to other firms.

A statement from QP said: “A 3D seismic survey is already underway, as the consortium partners prepare to begin drilling in early 2018.” QP also said that its consortium with Exxon would help the government build national skills in the oil and gas industry.

Prior to the signing which was witnessed by energy minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, Exxon senior vice president and CFO Andrew Swiger and QP CEO Saad Sherida al-Kaabi met the Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades at his palace in Nicosia. QP said the three discussed current and future co-operation in the energy field, as well as plans for block 10.

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Map credit: Republic of Cyprus government

Last month Eni finalised its 50% farm-in to Total-operated block 11, awarded in Cyprus’s second licensing round. 

Several companies have made large gas discoveries offshore Egypt, Israel and Cyprus, and a licensing round is being prepared for offshore Lebanon.

Energy ministers from Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Israel met in Israel April 3 and agreed to co-operate on a planned eastern Mediterranean gas pipeline to take gas from Cyprus and Israel to southern Europe, with plans that a feasibility study would be completed by the end of this year.

Separately there have also been co-operation talks between Cyprus and Egypt on the possible future use of the latter’s under-used facilities to liquefy Cypriot gas, a prospect for later in the 2020s that both Egypt’s petroleum minister Tareq el-Molla and Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi have talked up recently.