April 5 (UPI) -- An exploration campaign off the coast of Cyprus is planned by 2018 following a study of the reserve potential, a Qatari energy company said Wednesday.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades hosted representatives from Qatar Petroleum and Exxon Mobil for the signing of an exploration and production contract offshore. Qatar Petroleum CEO Saad al-Kaabi said in a statement that moving into the Mediterranean was a prospect of mutual benefits.
"This agreement expands our international upstream footprint into the eastern Mediterranean for what we hope is one of the most promising opportunities in this area," he said.
Qatar Petroleum and Exxon secured the rights to develop Cypriot waters in a licensing round last year. International interest in oil and gas exploration has raised expectations for Eastern Mediterranean gas in particular.
Italian energy company Eni is developing the Zhor gas field off the coast of Egypt, one of the region's largest. That field is about five miles from Cypriot waters and regional gas could help support Mediterranean economies.
Two years ago, a group of Israeli energy partners said they were declaring a natural gas reservoir discovered off the coast of Cyprus a commercial prospect. The island nation is considered frontier energy territory, though the offshore area could hold nearly 12 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.
Cypriot licensing rounds have been thwarted by geopolitical rows. More than 40 years after a Turkish military invasion, regional differences have presented a series of road blocks for development in the island nation.