Chevron has reportedly started drilling a key appraisal well offshore Cyprus, a development mired in geopolitical controversy over the ethnically split island as well as neighbor relations.

According to Upstream, Chevron has started drilling a key appraisal well on its 4.5-trillion-cubic foot Aphrodite gas discovery, aimed at boosting certainty over a planned $3.6 billion project.

Last weekend Cypriot Energy Minister George Papanastasiou hinted at the operation, saying it was designed to confirm deposit quantities.

The drilling comes at a financial and geopolitical cost for Chevron, which has been reluctant over its Aphrodite development concept despite encouragement from Nicosia.

In late 2022 Chevron backed out of drilling an appraisal well amid ongoing tensions over a Cyprus-Israel dispute, prompting partner NewMed Energy to seek and secure an extension of a production contract by nine additional months – i.e. till August 2023.

Last summer American plans to drill in Aphrodite within the first half of 2023 reportedly irked Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, whose predecessor had sought an agreement with Nicosia. Cyprus and Israel have since been trying to resolve the issue but to no avail.

But Turkish Cypriots in the northern part of the island have also warned the Republic of Cyprus against taking unilateral actions, arguing both communities are co-owners of underwater natural gas off the island.

“While the Greek-Cypriot administration continues its persistent unilateral activities, we will continue to take all measures to protect our legitimate rights and interests together with Turkey and take all steps that can be taken,” an official statement said last week. Turkish Cypriots say they have called on their Greek-Cypriot compatriots to resolve the issue through dialogue.

Chevron had been rumored to be seeking a drilling ship to explore for natural gas off Cyprus, Egypt and Israel, according to Reuters, which cited two sources.

It was recently confirmed that the American multinational energy company, which operates in all three Eastern Mediterranean countries, had issued a lease seeking a drilling vessel in 2024. A Chevron spokesperson declined to comment on the tender while reports suggested it had been issued for one year with an option to extend it for additional years.

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