Israeli, Greek Cyprus signing
Ministers of Energy for Greece, Cyprus and Israel (l. to r.) Yannis Maniatis, Yiorgos Lakkotrypis and Silvan Shalom attend the signing of a memorandum of understanding in Nicosia, Cyprus, Aug. 8, 2013. The three countries pledged to cooperate in the fields of energy and water, and welcomed joint projects in the energy sector to enhance security of the energy supply. REUTERS/Andreas Manolis

Cyprus has the potential to become a key player in the export of liquid natural gas as the island nation sits on huge offshore reserves of gas. Late last week International Business Times caught up with Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, the Cypriot energy minister, who laid out his vision of how his nation can develop the energy resource.

IBTimes: How could Cyprus leverage its offshore natural gas and its plans to build a liquefied natural gas export facility?

Yiorgos Lakkotrypis: “The discoveries of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean are definitely now an incentive, and it could be a catalyst for peace for the region. [Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, Cyprus] recognize that if you develop a stable environment where you can attract foreign direct investment, then a lot of international companies upstream will come and operate in your waters. These can be a new prospect for bringing both wealth and economic development to each of the countries but [it] also can … a create new geopolitical map. It is not by coincidence the European Union is starting to consider the eastern Mediterranean as a new source of supply of energy to its growing needs.”

IBTimes: What do you intend to do with the natural gas, and where and how will you export it?

Lakkotrypis: We are planning to monetize the natural reserves in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone through an LNG plant. This is going to give us flexibility for shipping gas wherever we find the best prices. The LNG plant will open up and be available for other countries' reserves to be shipped the same way if they so choose, and this is what we envision, that we will create Cyprus as a regional hub for the eastern Mediterranean region. If you liquefy the gas and you ship it to where there are re-gas facilities and there are a number of them. The geographical location of Cyprus gives us the ability to use liquefied natural gas because we are also so close to the Suez Canal, so we can ship either through the Suez Canal or to Europe. Or the rest of southern Europe as well within the Mediterranean.