Compared to the game-changing energy developments in the US with its rising shale gas production, energy news in the EU has been relatively light. The sentiment toward nuclear power has soured since the recent disaster in Japan, and the prospect of shale gas extraction has been bogged down by environmental concern. Currently this means the EU is heavily reliant on natural gas imports from Russia, as demand continues to outstrip supply. However, in the far-flung South-eastern corner of the EU, a promising development is reaching a new milestone.
Noble Energy (NYSE:NBL) is expected to release its exploratory drilling results this week, and recent news shows potential. Unconfirmed reports state that Cyprus’s Block 12 contains 12-20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas; potentially larger than its neighbouring Leviathan site which Noble CEO Charles Davidson called the largest discovery in the company’s history. This could place Cyprus firmly in the ranks of the world’s natural gas holders.
Noble has yet to breach the $100/share mark yet, but once announcements are made official, this may be the push NBL needs to break this psychologically important barrier. At Tuesday's close, Noble's share price was already up 11% on the year and had a strong surge in earnings in the third quarter. However, the new gas finds won't be prepared for production and export until around 2018. As a longer term play, this project may be an important turning point in the company’s strategy as it acquires the technical know-how it needs to exploit these gas reserves. As Europe diversifies its gas import sources, Noble will also be well placed to provide for the continent once this project begins to deliver over the next 6 years. This is when Noble's value will truly be seen, with its highly strategic assets. With its ROE hitting 24% in the third quarter, its 22 cent dividend has already shown Noble can already satisfy investors.
Though it is likely that LNG terminals will be built during this time, decisions surrounding the contracts to build them are still pending. Keep an eye out for the announcements to come surrounding this project.