Noble Energy has spudded an exploration well at a controversial gas field off Cyprus in a move which Turkish authorities at the weekend branded as “provocation”, according to reports.
The US independent has begun drilling at the Cyprus A field south of the island, Reuters reported, citing a member of Cyprus’ government on Tuesday.
Drilling had been expected at the field, also known as Aphrodite, as soon as this week with Noble itself confirming on Monday that it would spin the bit within a matter of days.
"The drilling process has been started by Noble Energy on the basis of the agreement with the Republic of Cyprus," deputy government spokesperson Christos Christofides told Reuters.
Nobody was immediately available for comment at Noble on Tuesday.
The drilling plans have led to increased tensions between Cypriot and Turkish authorities on the Mediterranean island which remains divided between the two nations.
On Saturday Turkey said plans by Cyprus to begin gas exploration amounted to "provocation" and it would consider carrying out offshore surveys with northern Cyprus if drilling went ahead.
Noble spokesperson David Larson responded on Monday by telling Reuters: "We are aware of the situation in the Mediterranean. We have a rig on location at the Cyprus A field and our plans are to proceed with drilling that well.
“Drilling is expected to begin within days, certainly within a week, depending on how long it takes to prepare the rig.”
Turkey has previously threatened to give naval escorts to Turkish exploration vessels off Cyprus unless the Greek Cypriot government halts plans for Noble to start drilling.
The Cyprus A gas field contains an estimated 10 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, according to Cypriot energy officials.
Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a Greek-inspired coup.