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Lebanon gas licensing round deadline delayed to Aug 14

Officials say Lebanon may have as much as 96 trillion cubic feet of gas and 850 million barrels of oil under its waters

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Lebanon has pushed back the deadline for its first offshore gas and oil licensing round to Aug. 14, its energy minister said on Friday, the fourth such delay caused by legislative hold-ups.

Officials say Lebanon may have as much as 96 trillion cubic feet of gas and 850 million barrels of oil under its waters - an amount that is unproven but even a fraction of which would be transformative for the Mediterranean country of 4 million people.

Significant finds in Israeli and Cypriot waters suggest Lebanon is likely to discover gas as well, but political disputes have prevented it from starting exploration.

Speaking at an oil and gas conference on Friday, Energy and Water Minister Arthur Nazarian renewed his call for politicians to approve two decrees delineating blocks and setting up a model exploration and production agreement.

Submitting bids

The two decrees need to be approved so that companies can submit their bids and the round can be closed.

“It is up to the current government to preserve the high level of credibility Lebanon now enjoys in this field and promptly take the initiative to approve the two basic decrees linked intrinsically with the first licensing round,” he said.

“We have extended the deadline for presenting bids from the qualified companies to participate in the first licensing round from April 10, 2014 to August 14, 2014.”

Nazarian told Reuters on April 7 that the ministry aimed to close the first round within about four months.

Political dysfunction caused three delays under the former minister - Lebanon was unable to form a government from March 2013 to February 2014, and the caretaker cabinet said it did not have authority to approve the decrees needed to close the round.

A new government finally won a vote of confidence in March this year, but the decrees have still not been approved.

Companies that pre-qualified for the first licensing round included Anadarko, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Inpex, Eni, Maersk, Petrobras , Repsol, Petronas, Statoil , Total and Shell.

But the risks of investing mean that some, including Statoil and Eni, now show at best lukewarm interest.

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