Lebanon reopens offshore licensing round

Lebanon has reopened its first offshore licensing round after a 3-year delay, including in its offering three blocks along the disputed boundary with Israel.

Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil announced a new prequalification round for 5 of the country’s 10 offshore blocks. Blocks 8, 9, and 10 include area claimed by Israel. Also part of the offering are Blocks 1 and 4 to the north.

The licensing round stalled in 2013. It cleared important hurdles in early January with enactment of two key decrees (OGJ Online, Jan. 5, 2017).

Although Lebanon has no oil or gas production, interest in its offshore prospects has been elevated by large deepwater gas discoveries off Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt.

A prequalification stage in the stalled licensing round drew applications by 52 companies from 25 countries. The Lebanese Petroleum Administration prequalified 12 applicants as operators and 34 as nonoperators.

Companies prequalified earlier don’t have to reapply in the new prequalification round if they still meet prequalification criteria.

The new round opens Feb. 2 and closes Mar. 31.

Results will be announced Apr. 13. Qualified companies will submit bids for open blocks on Sept. 15. Exploration and production agreements, based on production-sharing, are to be signed Nov. 15.

In a related move, the Lebanese cabinet issued a decree to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, members of which agree to require companies to disclose payments to host-country officials.

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