ExxonMobil, ENI and Total are among eight energy giants bidding to drill for undersea oil and gas off the southern coast of Cyprus, officials say Wednesday.
Companies from Europe, the US, Qatar and Israel are bidding for three new drilling licenses, Cypriot Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis tells reporters.
“The government is especially satisfied with the quality of applicants and we have achieved our target,” he says.
Italy’s ENI and France’s Total make joint bids for two of the three blocks available, while America’s ExxonMobil and Gulf gas giant Qatar Petroleum join forces for a rival bid.
Licenses would let firms prospect in waters near Egypt’s Zohr field, where Italian energy giant ENI last August discovered the “largest ever” offshore natural gas field in the Mediterranean.
The Zohr field is estimated to hold some 850 billion cubic meters (30 trillion cubic feet) of gas.
Cyprus hopes to begin exporting gas and possibly oil by 2022 as it seeks to become a key regional energy player.
The six applications will now be assessed by a special committee. Based on its recommendations, the cabinet will appoint a team to negotiate contracts with the winning companies.
Cabinet has the final say on granting licenses for the three blocks.