Lebanon Delays Energy Exploration License Auction Again

Lebanon postponed its first auction of licenses for offshore oil and natural-gas exploration until April 10, Energy Minister Gebran Bassil said, stalling bids for a third time amid political differences in the Arab state.

“This is the last time bidding will be delayed,” Bassil said today at a news conference in Beirut. The auction will occur on the new date in April even if voting on the necessary decrees doesn’t take place by then, he said.

Political disagreements have blocked the formation of a new cabinet since Prime Minister Najib Mikati resigned in March. The auction was first scheduled for Nov. 4 then delayed to Dec. 10 and again to Jan. 10. Officials have yet to vote on decrees that would demarcate blocks, establish production-sharing contracts or specify tender protocols.

Exxon Mobil Corp. and Total SA are among the companies prequalified to bid. Lebanon, which must import most of its oil and gas, needs revenue to pare its public debt, the highest as a share of economic output among 22 Arab nations, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Seismic surveys and data analysis of about 45 percent of Lebanon’s territorial waters show a 50 percent probability that the country has 96 trillion cubic feet of gas and 850 million barrels of oil, Bassil said Dec. 5. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Eastern Mediterranean’s Levant basin, of which Israel covers approximately 45 percent, holds about 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas and 1.7 billion barrels of oil.

Companies that prequalified to bid as operators are Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Eni SpA, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Statoil ASA, A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, Repsol SA, Inpex Corp. and Petroliam Nasional Bhd, according to the energy ministry’s website.

Among the 34 companies that prequalified as non-operators were Genel Energy Plc, Suncor Energy Inc., Marathon Oil Corp., Santos Ltd., OMV AG, GDF Suez, MOL Hungarian Oil and Gas Plc, Cairn Energy Plc, Dana Petroleum Plc and Japex Corp., the ministry said.

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