BEIRUT Jan 5 Lebanon intends to restart its
first oil and gas licensing round after a three-year delay, the
energy minister said on Thursday, hoping to kick-start the
development of a hydrocarbon industry.
In its first sitting since being formed in December,
Lebanon's new cabinet passed two decrees on Wednesday defining
the blocks and specifying conditions for production and
exploration tenders and contracts.
Lebanon will offer five offshore blocks for exploration and
production and is to hold another pre-qualification round for
companies interested in bidding, Minister of Energy and Water
Cesar Abou Khalil told a news conference.
Beirut estimates it has 96 trillion cubic feet of natural
gas reserves and 865 million barrels of oil offshore, but
squabbling between parties has prevented the passage of vital
laws needed to develop the sector.
In 2013, 46 companies qualified to take part in bidding for
oil and gas tenders, 12 of them as operators, including Chevron
, Total and Exxon Mobil.
Abou Khalil said he expects these 46 companies to be
interested still and that Lebanon will hold another
pre-qualification process to increase competition and secure the
The next stage is for the government to agree a tax regime
for the nascent hydrocarbon industry.
On Wednesday, the cabinet also agreed to form a ministerial
committee to discuss the draft tax law. Abou Khalil said the
committee would meet on Thursday.
"The committee is committed to finalise comments on the tax
law (with) the shortest delay," he said.
"It might take a couple of weeks, and then we will go back
to the council of ministers and we will transfer the (draft) law
to the parliament, where it is expected to be passed in the
first legislative session."
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Laila Bassam; Editing by Dale