Cyprus gas round closes, strong interest-media

NICOSIA Fri May 11, 2012 3:17am EDT

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NICOSIA May 11 (Reuters) - Cyprus will disclose bids to develop a potential offshore gas bonanza on Friday, with reports suggesting up to thirteen companies bidding for licences in a project which has incensed neighbouring Turkey.

Cypriot authorities were expected to provide details of bidders at 1130 GMT, half an hour after the licensing round closes. Twelve offshore blocks, close to a major gas discovery announced in December, are on offer.

Turkey, which lies just north of Cyprus, disputes the island's rights in exploring for oil and gas. Cyprus was ethnically split between a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south in 1974.

The licensing round is being conducted by the internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot government, which represents Cyprus in the European Union.

Daily Haravghi, the mouthpiece of the Greek Cypriot ruling communist AKEL party, said nineteen applications were made by thirteen companies and consortia.

If verified it would far outweigh interest shown in Cyprus's first offshore licensing round in 2007 when only one licence, that to Noble Energy was issued.

Cyprus reported its first natural gas find in December 2011, when U.S. based Noble said it had discovered an estimated 5-8 trillion cubic feet (tcf) south of the island.

There have been significant discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean in the past three years, refocussing attention on simmering border disputes throughout the region.

Exploration results suggest that over 100 trillion tcf of gas could lie untapped throughout the region.

Turkey, which supports a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in north Cyprus, has accused Greek Cypriots of undermining peace talks with its exploration bid. Nicosia denies the charge, saying any finds could benefit both sides in a future reunified island.

Ankara last month it gave the go-ahead to its state run oil firm TPAO to conduct offshore exploration in waters to the north, west and east of the island, and launched an on-shore drill in north Cyprus.

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