France's Total is close to extending an offshore natural gas exploration program in Cyprus after coming up empty in prior surveys, the island's energy minister said on Monday.
Cyprus, a member of the European Union, has become particularly keen to develop offshore gas reserves as a potential source of revenue since it was compelled to seek an international financial bailout in early 2013.
"The renewed agreement that we hope we will be signing next week will be talking about doing geological surveys in a different area but no drilling," Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, the Cyprus energy minister, said while speaking at an event at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. "They can drill if they identify a drillable prospect, which unfortunately they have not done so far."
Total confirmed in January that it had completed surveys over two Cypriot offshore blocks for which it had licenses, without finding potential drilling targets.
Cyprus's neighbour Turkey has challenged the island's right to drill for gas, maintaining the island's estranged Turkish Cypriots have an equal claim. The island was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 following a brief Greece-inspired coup.
Total is among a raft of international oil exploration and production companies, including BP and ConocoPhillips, that have slashed 2015 budgets in light of lower oil prices.
Drilling in the east Mediterranean is costly, because of its considerable depth.
Civil engineer Jose Agusto replaces Carlos Perez, who resigned last week for personal reasons.
Success in those projects would result in its reserve base reaching 3.7 billion barrels over the next seven years and help Woodside expand production by 6% a year over the next decade, the company said.
Output at the largest formation, the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico, is expected to rise 57,000 bbl/d to 4.73 MMbbl/d.