NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — ExxonMobil has made the world's third-biggest gas find in the last two years off the cost of Cyprus, the country's government said Thursday.
Energy Minister Georgios Lakkotrypis said the discovery of an estimated 5-8 trillion cubic feet of gas offers hope for more discoveries in waters off the east Mediterranean island nation, which wants to become an alternative energy source for Europe.
ExxonMobil Vice President Tristan Aspray said there's potential for more discoveries for ExxonMobil and partners Qatar Petroleum.
"We'd be interested in other opportunities offshore Cyprus and indeed the whole eastern Mediterranean, " Aspray said.
He said ExxonMobil will carry out additional drilling most likely next year.
This is the third gas find in waters that Cyprus has licensed out for exploratory drilling to companies including Italy's Eni and France's Total.
A year ago, Eni announced the discovery of a potentially sizeable gas deposit in an area adjacent to where ExxonMobil has made the discovery.
In 2011, Texas-based Noble Energy discovered a deposit in waters southeast of Cyprus estimated to contain 4.5 trillion cubic feet of gas.
But Turkey strongly objects to any gas search off Cyprus, saying it infringes on its rights — as well as those of Turkish Cypriots in the island's breakaway northern region.
Turkey, which doesn't recognize Cyprus as a state, claims parts of Cyprus's offshore exclusive economic zone and says it will carry out drilling of its own soon.
Aspray said his company is aware of the region's "geopolitical tensions, " but remains focused on its work in waters that lie outside the area Turkey claims as its own.
This story has been corrected to say the discovered deposit contains an estimated 5-8 trillion cubic feet of gas, instead of 5-8 trillion feet of gas.