BEIRUT - Lebanon will sign contracts with a consortium of three international oil companies at the end of January to start gas exploration, according to Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil.
According to the contracts, the consortium, composed of French company Total, Italian ENI and Russian Novatek, will start actual gas exploration in 2019 in blocks 4 and 9.
Abi Khalil’s announcement, made after Parliament’s Public Works and Transport Committee met, came after the Cabinet approved in December the Energy Ministry’s request to license the three companies to explore oil and gas in maritime blocks 4 and 9 that lie off the northern and southern Lebanese coasts, respectively.
“We presented results of the licensing round that led to awarding the companies and the measures that accompanied it to all the [parliamentary] blocs whose MPs attended,” Abi Khalil said.
The consortium will conduct some research work and more surveys off the Lebanese coast in 2018.
The companies will set up offices in Lebanon and hire Lebanese and foreign staff.
Lebanon hopes for the discovery of substantial gas, which would signal new prosperity for the country. But oil experts stress it will take at least five or six years to start pumping any gas found.
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