NICOSIA, March 17 (Reuters) – Noble Energy is expected to declare its Aphrodite natural gas reserve off Cyprus commercially viable within weeks, paving the way for exports, Cyprus's energy minister said on Tuesday.
The move would be an important milestone for Cyprus, which required an international bailout in 2013 and is now looking at an economic turnaround based partly on offshore reserves.
"This is very important for Cyprus because it will be the first time we go beyond the phase of hydrocarbons exploration to development and exploitation," Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said after a meeting with Noble executives and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.
"This sends a message to foreign buyers that we have natural gas to sell," Lakkotrypis said.
Cyprus is seeking to develop the energy sector to bolster an economy that relies mostly on tourism, business services and shipping.
Cyprus and Egypt are looking into the possibility of transferring gas from the Aphrodite deposit to Egypt via an undersea pipeline. The island has, for now, shelved plans to create its own liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal.
Noble is the only company licensed by Cyprus to have made a discovery, with an estimated 4.54 trillion cubic feet in its Aphrodite field.
Keith Elliot, senior vice-president for Noble in the Eastern Mediterranean, described the field's prospects as a tremendous opportunity.
"We hope (it) will bring prosperity to both the people of Cyprus and the government of Cyprus, as well as the other countries in the region," Elliot said.
(Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Jason Neely and David Goodman)
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