Only a few short years ago, the prospect of finding commercial reserves of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean was, to use the inevitable pun, little short of a pipe dream. Offers of acreage were many, expressions of interest few. Now, if the results of the Republic of Cyprus' second licensing round that ended May 12 is anything to go by, that has certainly changed.
Of the 12 blocks covering 45,000 square kilometres on offer, a total of 33 bids were received for nine blocks from 15 companies and consortia. Those bidding included some of the continent's biggest gas operators, Gazprom - through its subsidiary GPB Global Resources, Italy's Eni - in partnership with South Korea's Kogas, Italy's Edison, French giant Total and US independent Marathon - not to mention several UK- and Israel-based independents.
The level of interest is not difficult to fathom. Just to the east in the Israeli sector of the Mediterranean lies the Leviathan gasfield, holding an estimated 450bn cubic metres (cm) of gas and 600m barrels of oil, and the Tamar gasfield holding an estimated 275bn cm of gas. And drilling late last year by US company Noble Energy in Cyprus' own block 12 struck what was announced at the time as a substantial gasfield, which the company in May confirmed to hold 991bn cm of gas.