Exploratory drilling by Italy's Eni and France's Total have discovered "extensive" gas reserves off Cyprus, Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis said Thursday.
"The data obtained from the exploration drilling, at a depth of 3,827 metres (12,600 feet), demonstrates the existence of an extensive column of pure gas," said Lakkotrypis.
He said the rock formation indicated an "excellent quality reservoir".
"This is a particularly positive development as it shows our natural gas reserves are growing and confirms the existence of an oil system as well as a carbon sink," Lakkotrypis told reporters.
In a joint venture with Total, Eni started test-drilling for possible gas reserves in block 6, called Calypso, in December.
Total and Eni will carry out further research and evaluation work to assess the amount of natural gas contained in the Calypso reservoir.
Eni, with South Korea's Kogas, will now turn its attention to exploratory drilling in block 3, while US giant ExxonMobil is planning two drills in the second half of 2018.
Since launching a concerted energy search more than seven years ago, Cyprus has struggled to find enough quantities of natural gas to make it commercially viable to exploit.
ExxonMobil with Qatar Petroleum has signed a licence agreement with the Cyprus government to explore block 10 for oil and gas.
Block 10 is close to where Eni made a huge find in Egypt´s offshore "Zohr" field, raising hopes in Cyprus of more untapped wealth.
US firm Noble Energy made the first find off southeast Cyprus in 2011 in the Aphrodite field (block 12), estimated to contain 127.4 billion cubic metres (4.54 trillion cubic feet) of gas.
Block 12 has been declared commercially viable but an action plan on the next steps has yet to be finalised.
Cyprus needs to find more gas reserves to make a planned onshore terminal financially viable as it seeks to become a regional energy player.
Turkey has voiced opposition to drilling off Cyprus saying it wants a solution to the island's 44-year division first so that Turkish Cypriots can share any energy wealth created.
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