Cyprus picks Eni, Total, ExxonMobil for drilling talks



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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus government negotiators will sit down with three oil and gas giants including a consortium made up of ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum to sort out the terms of licenses to drill off the east Mediterranean island's southern coast, the country's energy minister said Wednesday.

Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said Italy's Eni will negotiate license terms for one offshore area, or block. A partnership between Eni and France's Total and the ExxonMobil-Qatar Petroleum consortium will negotiate for one block each.

Block 10, the area that the ExxonMobil-Qatar Petroleum consortium is negotiating for, lies above an Egyptian gas field that its discoverer Eni has hailed as the largest ever gas find in the Mediterranean sea.

"The fact that we had very interesting technical and economic proposals for the specific block leaves us optimistic about its prospects," said Lakkotrypis.

Eight companies or consortiums had vied for the three blocks as part of a third licensing round.

The energy minister said talks are expected to conclude by the end of January or early February next year. Licenses will be valid for seven years.

Texas-based Noble Energy, which received a drilling license in an earlier round, discovered a gas field off Cyprus estimated to contain over four trillion cubic feet in reserves.

Eni and Total have also received drilling licenses in an earlier round. Lakkotrypis said Total plans to proceed with exploratory drilling in another block in the second quarter of 2017.

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The Associated Press

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