NICOSIA – US energy giant ExxonMobil on Thursday announced the discovery of a natural gas field containing an estimated 5 to 8 trillion cubic feet (TCF) inside Cyprus's exclusive economic zone. 

The announcement was made at a joint press conference in Nicosia by ExxonMobil vice-president Tristan Aspray and Cypriot Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis. 

 Aspray said that further technical work will be done in the next months to accurately estimate the capacity of the gas field. The gas drilling was made by an ExxonMobil-Qatar Petroleum consortium on a target called Glafcos (Glaucus) in Cyprus's block 10. 

 Separately, a statement by Exxon-Mobil said that "based on preliminary interpretation of the well data, the discovery could represent an in-place natural gas resource of approximately 5 trillion to 8 trillion cubic feet (142 billion to 227 billion cubic meters)". "These are encouraging results in a frontier exploration area, The potential for this newly discovered resource to serve as an energy source for regional and global markets will be evaluated further," said Steve Greenlee, president of ExxonMobil Exploration Company. 

 The well was drilled to 4,200 meters depth in 2,063 meters of water. This is the second verified big find of natural gas in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone following Noble Energy's discovery of a 4.5 to 8 TCF of natural gas in 2011 in Block 12. The announcement of the new discovery is bound to bring a strong reaction by Turkey, which has objected to natural gas exploration and exploitation by Cyprus without the participation of the Turkish Cypriot community. 

 Turkish Cypriots pulled out of the government of the eastern Mediterranean island since 1963, seeking its partition. Turkey claims that parts of the Cypriot exclusive economic zone overlap its "continental shelf". 

Turkey started as of Wednesday its biggest ever naval and air exercises involving over 100 warships, which engulf the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean, publishing a map which Turkish papers said was intended as a warning to Greece, Cyprus and Israel. 

It has also said that a drillship it owns will start exploration in areas of the eastern Mediterranean, in reaction to the Cypriot gas exploration. Its chief of military staff has been repeatedly quoted by Turkish newspapers as saying that nothing can be done in the eastern Mediterranean without the participation of Turkey. 

The Cypriot government says its energy program will proceed despite Turkish claims. In a move intended as a reply to the demand for Turkish Cypriots participation in gas exploration, the parliament of Cyprus has scheduled a discussion on Friday to pass a bill setting up a National Investment Fund to manage assets from natural gas. 

The legislation provides that gas assets will be deposited to the benefit of future generations and will be equitably divided between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities after a solution for the reunification of the island is found in UN-led peace negotiations. 

XINHUA