For the second time the last few months, energy companies have failed to find exploitable natural gas reserves off the coast of Cyprus, casting some doubt on the country’s energy aspirations.


Late last week, Italian energy company Eni and Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS) announced that their drilling efforts had once again come up dry. The consortium had similar results during a drilling effort last year on the same block.


  The failure to find viable reserves adds to the strain on the country’s energy push. Last year, France’s Total also came up short in finding reserves, though they continue to work in the region, according to a Reuters report.


The set-back offers a stark contrast with nearby Israel, who has made significant progress towards exploration, production and even exports over the last three years while others in the region continue to struggle. Lebanon also made a pitch for offshore exploration in recent year, though political limitations have hindered even the early stages of licensing.


Cyprus is not the only country betting on the region’s natural gas aspirations. European and U.S. leaders have expressed strong support for exploration efforts in Cyprus, both for the country’s own good and offering the possibility of a new energy resource for the rest of Europe.


Following a 2009 pipeline closure over a price dispute between Ukraine and Russia, Brussels has made a concerted effort to diversify natural gas import options for Europe, including increasing cooperation with North African suppliers, encouraging renewable alternatives and pushing for investment for the region’s interconnectors. Despite easing dependence on Russian natural gas from 45 to 30 percent in the five years since the shutdown, Europe’s push has been limited by a series of setbacks on all fronts, not least the impact of instability across North Africa on hydrocarbon production and output.


Since a 2011 discovery, Cyprus has sought to establish the country as an energy hub in the region, joining new industry actors like Israel in promoting the potential of the Eastern Mediterranean’s new-found offshore reserves. However, progress has been slow, as the country’s weakened economic standing has made it difficult to nail down the financing needed to pursue exploration, production and export options.


However, according to recent reports, only one company has had any success in finding offshore reserves in the region. According to a Reuters report, Texas-based Noble, “discovered a field with an estimated 4.5 trillion cubic feet of gas south of Cyprus in 2011. It is close to Israel’s Leviathan with its estimated 22 trillion cubic feet of reserves.”


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