30 Mar 2017 10:42 GMT
Hopes Total's Onesiphoros West-1 probe off Cyprus could match Eni's gaint Zohr find off Egypt
The East Mediterranean's status as a key global gas play could be further enhanced this year if a wildcat to be drilled off Cyprus this year fulfils expectations.
France's Total is preparing to spud the Onesiphoros West-1 probe in Block 11, targeting a huge carbonate prospect that is geologically comparable to Eni’s 30 trillion cubic foot Zohr discovery just across the maritime border in Egypt.
For years the area had been dominated by Egypt’s well-known Nile Delta gas play extending from the swamps into ultra-deep waters.
But until comparatively recently, the remainder of the East Mediterranean was largely untouched by the drill bit despite a few decent, shallow water gas finds off Israel and Gaza.
However, that all changed in early 2009, when Houston-based Noble Energy opened up a new Miocene play, first in Israel’s deep waters with its big Tamar and Leviathan gas finds, and then off Cyprus with its sizeable Aphrodite gas discovery.
For what are thought to be geopolitical reasons, other companies have so far been reluctant to join Noble in exploring Israel.
However, initially chasing the same Miocene play, the majors instead snapped up blocks available in Cyprus’ first licensing round although drilling has to date been unsuccessful.
A further exploration impetus came from Eni’s game-changing, carbonate Zohr discovery, with big oil recently securing acreage in the second Cypriot licensing round that could host lookalike structures.
Major companies are also chafing at the bit to secure blocks in Lebanon’s licensing round, while it will be interesting to see which companies bid for licences in an ongoing Israeli offshore round.
In addition, Egypt could launch an acreage offering next year in its western offshore waters, an area that could hold an extension of the Nile Delta play but which may also house similar prospects to Zohr.
Raffaele di Cuia, managing director of Italian consultancy GE Plan, says the East Mediterranean hosts a variety of mature and virgin plays. “There are areas in the Nile Delta that are very well explored and other (areas) where there are no wells. But most important, over the last seven years there have been discoveries made that hold more than 70 Tcf of gas.”
Di Cuia, speaking at Appex Global in London last month, suggests the Eratosthenes Seamount, a 15,000 square-kilometre carbonate platform, has been important in the formation of Zohr.
He says that Zohr "is essentially a satellite of the Eratosthenes Seamount”, and “everything around Eratosthenes could be something similar to Zohr. We know there are other satellite structures around (the seamount)”.
Both Zohr and Onesiphoros West — which is set to be drilled this summer by drillship West Capella — are south of the seamount. Unusually, the 150 square-kilometre Zohr structure, was drilled on 2D seismic data and hit a 600-metre gas column, with a high net-to-gross ratio and extremely good reservoir properties.
However, di Cuia notes that although Eni initially described Zohr as a Miocene carbonate find, it has quietly altered its view.
“What has changed is that the reservoirs are mainly Cretaceous carbonates and not Miocene as initially believed,” putting a new geological spin on this frontier play.
Du Cuia highlights other potential Cretaceous and Jurassic Zohr lookalike structures along the eastern margin of the Levantine basins, extending from Israel into Lebanon and farther north.
With exploration turning up an abundance of gas finds, companies have been hard at work putting in place and identifying developments.
Off Israel, companies are legally obliged to send a large amount of discovered gas to the domestic market, leaving them free to export the rest via pipeline to neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Egypt and maybe Turkey.
Gas from Tamar and Leviathan could end up being used as feedstock for dormant liquefied natural gas plants in Egypt, supplemented in the future by gas from Zohr and perhaps by gas from Aphrodite off Cyprus.
There is also a plan, supported by the European Union, to transport Israeli gas to mainland Greece via a long distance pipeline calling in at Cyprus and Crete.
The challenging project is said to be feasible at a technical level but its economics remain to be fully assessed.
If Total does make a major gas find with Onesiphoros West-1, it could offer further support for this Euro-Israeli pipeline and also underpin development of an LNG export industry in Cyprus.
All eyes will now be on Total’s wildcat, which will be a good guide as to whether Zohr is unique or a play opener.