The resource is the third-biggest find since 2017, and it holds an estimated five to eight trn cu ft (TCF). Exxon will conduct additional testing over the next several months to determine its exact potential.
ExxonMobil's drilling contractor went down 14,000ft beneath 6,800ft of water to find the resource at the frontier exploration well, dubbed Glaucus-1. The first well in the campaign - Delphyne-1 - found non-commercial quantities.
Both sites are within Cyprus lease block 10, held jointly by ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum. The firms won the rights in a controversial 2017 lease auction held by the Cypriot government, over the objections of Turkey and the breakaway region of Northern Cyprus.
"This is the greatest discovery within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)," said Cyprus' Energy Minister, George Lakkotrypis. "It is an amazing development for all of Cyprus.” Lakkotrypis also noted that according to official data it is one of the greatest discoveries in the world in recent years.
“These are encouraging results in a frontier exploration area,” said Steve Greenlee, president of ExxonMobil Exploration Company. “The potential for this newly discovered resource to serve as an energy source for regional and global markets will be evaluated further.”
The statement came after ExxonMobil’s vp for Europe, Russia, Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East, Tristan Asprey, had briefed Cypriot President, Nicos Anastasiades. Asprey said he was very encouraged by the discovery and added that in the coming months, there would be an appraisal drilling, in order to determine the full potential of the field.
The area includes several other large and super-large fields, including Eni's Calypso field and the Zohr field in Egypt. Zohr contains as much as 30 TCF of gas, putting it on the list of the top 20 largest gas formations in the world. Leviathan, located in Israeli waters to the east, is near behind at about 19 TCF.
Cyprus' newfound wealth of natural gas poses several difficulties.
First, Turkey questions Cyprus' EEZ claims, and maintains the revenues from gas production should be shared with Northern Cyprus. In the past, Turkey has intervened militarily to prevent Cypriot-authorized offshore drilling.
Second, the infrastructure needed to bring the gas to market is yet to be developed. Cyprus will need a subsea pipeline or an LNG liquefaction terminal in order to transfer the gas supply to European markets, where it would provide a new EU-produced alternative to Russian and other foreign import sources.