TPAO Begins Drilling Well In Northern Cyprus
Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) on 26 April began drilling an onshore exploratory well within the Turkish-Cypriot administrated area of Cyprus, northwest of the deserted city of Famagusta. TPAO was awarded last September a concession by the Turkish-Cypriot administration to explore for hydrocarbons within the 40% of the island that has been occupied by Turkish forces since 1974 and was also awarded a number of offshore concessions encompassing most of the island (MEES, 5 December 2011). The move followed the start of offshore drilling by US company Noble Energy in Block 12 in the Cyprus exclusive economic zone (EEZ) which lies south of the island. Turkey responded by sending warships in the Cyprus EEZ, including Block 12 were Noble was drilling. Noble reported last December that it had discovered 7 trillion cu ft of natural gas at the Aphrodite field in Block 12 (MEES, 2/9 January). Counting its discoveries made in the Israeli offshore, Noble has found some 33 tcf of natural gas in the Levant Basin in the East Mediterranean. It is now in discussion with the Cypriot government about building a subsea pipeline to the southern coast for the purpose of using the gas for domestic power generation. It is also developing Israel’s offshore Tamar discovery, which will be used to meet domestic Israeli demand.
A ceremony to mark the start of drilling at the Turkyuduru-1 well in northern Cyprus was attended by the leader of the Turkish-Cypriot community, Dervis Eroglu, and Turkey’s Minister of Energy Taner Yildiz. The well has a target depth of 3,000ms and is expected to take several months to complete. Further exploration and anticipated development of Block 12, plus the soon to be completed licensing round launched by the Republic of Cyprus in February, has provided the parties to the ‘Cyprus Problem’ with a new issue for dispute. Northern Cyprus and Turkey have attempted to justify their claim to large sections of the East Mediterranean offshore as international interest in Cyprus as a hydrocarbon play has grown. Both the Turkish-Cypriots and Turkey have called for all hydrocarbon exploration concerning Cyprus to be halted until a comprehensive political settlement can be found for the island, divided since 1974. The Turkish-Cypriots and Turkey argue that Cypriot hydrocarbon resources belong to all the Cypriot people. For its part, Greek-Cypriot leaders have stated that any earnings from exploration and development will be shared by the entire population once a settlement is arranged.
Turkish Cabinet Awards East Mediterranean Concession To TPAO
Meanwhile, the cabinet of the Turkish government has awarded a number of offshore concessions to TPAO, some of which overlap with blocks identified as part of the Cyprus EEZ (and included in the current bidding round) and that fall within the Greek EEZ under the terms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which Greece has yet to declare. Both Cyprus and Greece have expressed their objections to the decision taken by Ankara and are expected to take the matter to the UN. Ankara considers a large portion of the East Mediterranean to be part of its continental shelf and is not a signatory of UNCLOS.
An announcement appeared on 26 April in Turkey’s official gazette reporting the cabinet’s approval of exploration licenses for six offshore blocks to TPAO. The licenses overlap with Cyprus Blocks 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 and one lies in the vicinity of the Greek island of Rhodes. Last November, TPAO signed a farm-in deal with Shell for several offshore blocks south of Antalya involving seismic work (MEES, 29 November 2011).
Turkish Minister of Energy Taner Yildiz was reported by Hurriyet Daily News
on 25 April as saying that construction of a new seismic research vessel had been commissioned. He said an agreement had been signed by the General Directorate of Mineral Research Exploration (MTA), the Under-Secretariat for Defense Industries and a contractor. The ship is expected to cost $100mn and will be built in the Tuzla shipyard in northwest Turkey. The energy ministry will finance the cost of the ship with the assistance of the under-secretariat. Mr Yildiz said the ship will be equipped with the latest technology and will be used for 2D and 3D seismic exploration. It is scheduled to be delivered to the MTA in 2014. Turkey has only one seismic research vessel, the ageing Piri Reis, which was sent into the Cyprus EEZ last September after the start of offshore drilling by Noble Energy.
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