France’s Total boosts Cypriot gas plan as it eyes Iran exit

In this file photo taken on Oct.12, 2016, the logo of French oil giant Total SA is pictured at company headquarters in La Defense business district, outside Paris. (AP/Michel Euler)
Updated 21 May 2018
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France’s Total boosts Cypriot gas plan as it eyes Iran exit

  • French energy company Total says it is looking to expand its search for natural gas off Cyprus’ south coast
  • Total is partners with Eni to search for oil and gas in two other areas off Cyprus

NICOSIA: French energy company Total says it is looking to expand its search for natural gas off Cyprus’ south coast and seeks to secure another exploratory drilling license, days after warning it could exit Iran over renewed US sanctions there.
Stephane Michel, Total’s Middle East exploration chief, said Monday that the company has applied for a license to search for hydrocarbons in Block 8, an area south of Cyprus where Italian company Eni is already licensed to carry out exploratory drilling.
Total is partners with Eni to search for oil and gas in two other areas off Cyprus. In one of the two, Eni said in February it has discovered a “promising” gas deposit with similar geological features as that of another discovery in Egyptian waters it described as the largest ever in the Mediterranean.
Cyprus Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis called Total’s move an “important development” that expands the company’s exploration footprint off Cyprus.
Lakkotrypis said what gives the move added weight is the fact that Total’s interest comes three months after Turkish warships blocked a drillship from carrying out exploratory drilling by Eni in Block 3, an area southeast of Cyprus.
“After all that happened in Block 3, we see one of the most important partners of the Cyprus Republic wanting to expand its presence inside the Exclusive Economic Zone, especially in an area like Block 8 which is still unexplored.”
Turkey opposes what it calls a “unilateral” gas search by the ethnically divided island’s Greek Cypriot-run government, insisting that it flouts the rights of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to natural resources. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and claims parts of exploration areas south of Cyprus which it says fall within its continental shelf.
The Cyprus government says any potential gas proceeds will be shared equitably with Turkish Cypriots after an accord reunifying the island is reached.
A deposit discovered off Cyprus by Texas-based Noble Energy in 2011 is estimated to contain around 4.5 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Total’s move also comes just days after it said it would have to withdraw multi-billion-dollar project in Iran unless it is granted a waiver by US authorities. The group said it cannot afford to be exposed to US sanctions, including the loss of financing by American banks.


OPEC oil ministers gather to discuss production increase

Updated 19 June 2018
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OPEC oil ministers gather to discuss production increase

  • Analysts expect the group to discuss an increase in production of about 1 million barrels a day
  • The officials were arriving in Vienna ahead of the official meeting Friday

VIENNA: The oil ministers of the OPEC cartel were gathering Tuesday to discuss this week whether to increase production of crude and help limit a rise in global energy prices.
The officials were arriving in Vienna ahead of the official meeting Friday, when they will also confer with Russia, a non-OPEC country that since late 2016 has cooperated with the cartel to limit production.
Analysts expect the group to discuss an increase in production of about 1 million barrels a day, ending the output cut agreed on in 2016.
The cut has since then pushed up the price of crude oil by about 50 percent. The US benchmark in May hit its highest level in three and half years, at $72.35 a barrel.
Upon arriving, the energy minister of the United Arab Emirates, Suhail Al Mazrouei, said: “It’s going to be hopefully a good meeting. We look forward to having this gathering with OPEC and non-OPEC.”
The 14 countries in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries make more money with higher prices, but are mindful of the fact that more expensive crude can encourage a shift to renewable resources and hurt demand.
“Consumers as well as businesses will be hoping that this week’s OPEC meeting succeeds in keeping a lid on prices, and in so doing calling a halt to a period which has seen a steady rise in fuel costs,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK
The rise in the cost of oil has been a key factor in driving up consumer price inflation in major economies like the US and Europe in recent months.
Already US President Donald Trump has called on OPEC to cut production, tweeting in April and again this month that “OPEC is at it again” by allowing oil prices to rise.
Within OPEC, an increase in output will not affect all countries equally. While Saudi Arabia, the cartel’s biggest producer, is seen to be open to a rise in production, other countries cannot afford to do so. Those include Iran and Venezuela, whose industries are stymied either by international sanctions or domestic turmoil. Iran is a fierce regional rival to Saudi Arabia, meaning the OPEC deal could also influence the geopolitics in the Middle East.