Egypt and Cyprus to explore for oil, gas - Mubarak
Nicosia, May 3 (Reuters) - Egypt and Cyprus are to explore jointly for oil and gas in the east Mediterranean, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in an interview published on Wednesday.
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, due to start a three day official visit to Egypt on Wednesday, was also set to oversee the signing of an agreement between the two countries on drilling and production of natural gas within Cypriot territorial waters, Mubarak told the daily Phileleftheros.
Mubarak did not say when exploration would start.
There is now no oil or gas exploration in the immediate vicinity of Cyprus. Past estimates of reserves in the seas around the east Mediterranean island suggest six billion to eight billion barrels of crude, according to Cypriot former energy minister Nicos Rolandis.
"Egypt has responded to the desire of Cyprus to participate in the necessary mapping of Cypriot territorial waters and enter an association to discover and produce oil and natural gas," Mubarak said.
"This will open new opportunities for a profitable cooperation between the two countries in this vital sector."
Egypt and Cyprus signed a memorandum of understanding last year which had included future exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Cyprus. They have also previously agreed on their economic exploitation zones, which is a delineation of their sea boundaries.
The island, some 300 kms (162 nautical miles) north of Egypt, now relies almost exclusively on heavy fuel oil imports to fire its power stations.
Cyprus has previously said it plans to introduce natural gas into its energy market by 2009 and hold an international tender later this year for the infrastructure.
Egypt has offered technical support to convert power stations to gas-fired terminals from fuel oil, Mubarak said.
LNG is gas cooled into liquid form for easy transport by tanker. On arrival, it is reheated into gas and pumped into the local pipeline network.