International Oil Cos Eye First Cyprus Oil, Gas Licensing Round

DUBAI Mar 20, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

International oil companies, including ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM) and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA.LN), have purchased documents required to bid for the first oil and gas exploration licensing round offshore Cyprus, an official of the island state's energy ministry said Tuesday.

BP PLC (BP.LN), Lukoil (LUKOY) and Total S.A. (TOT) are also among the 10 oil companies that so far have bought the data packages from the commerce, industry and tourism ministry, which handles the licensing round, Solon Kassinis, the acting director for energy services at the energy ministry, told Dow Jones Newswires at a Dubai conference.

Companies have until July 16 to bid for the 11 blocks on offer, which cover a total area of 60000 square kilometers, Kassinis said at the 4th Mideast Upstream conference.

The bid deadline will most likely be extended to Aug. 31, he added.

Two additional blocks will be offered in a later round, Kassinis said.

Energy demand is rising rapidly on the southeast Mediterranean island, leading the government to secure additional resources such as gas and to develop renewable energies.

Companies can bid for one-year prospecting licenses, three-year exploration licenses and 25-year exploitation licenses based on production sharing, according to Kassinis.

License awards are expected within six months of the submission of proposals, he said.

PGS Geophysical AS last year completed a seismic survey amounting to as many as 6770 line kilometers, Kassinis said.

Beicip-Franlab has prepared an interpretation report based on the seismic survey, he said.

The Cypriot government is also finalizing plans and will "decide within weeks" on the development of liquefied natural gas receiving facilities, Kassinis said.

The government is expected to go ahead with the onshore LNG receiving terminal but may also choose to install offshore LNG receiving facilities, according to Kassinis.

The offshore facilities, which take less time to set up, could bridge the gap until construction of the onshore units are completed, he said.

The LNG regas unit is urgently needed as construction of a combined-cycle power plant in the vicinity of the planned receiving terminal is under construction and will need the gas as feedstock, Kassinis added.

Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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