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Lebanon to auction for gas exploration in 2012

Beirut, August 19, 2010

Lebanon hopes to launch a licensing round for offshore gas exploration at the beginning of 2012, the energy minister said on Thursday, two days after parliament unanimously ratified a long-awaited energy law.

"If we move with the necessary speed, and there are no political hurdles, then in early 2012 the licensing round can start," Gebran Bassil said at a news conference.

Lebanon has said it has identified reserves that have promising quantities of natural gas, according to seismic surveys in 2006-2007.

Bassil called the law a "big achievement" for Lebanon, which had dithered for years over the legislation. Politicians were finally spurred into action by fears that Israel may encroach on Lebanese waters when drilling for gas in the Mediterranean.

"This is the first practical step that will put Lebanon on the path of producing energy," Bassil told reporters.

Bassil said the law would operate on the principle of "production-sharing".  "We and companies will share ... Lebanon does not have the financial capability or the expertise that the companies have .... and we'll share the profits equally."

Lebanon has stopped short of accusing Israel of violating its territory, but the mistrust between the two -- which were embroiled in a deadly border clash earlier this month -- has exacerbated Lebanese fears.

Even though Lebanon has passed the law it still has a long road ahead to catch up with the Israelis. It has to identify blocs, supply data to interested investors, select bidders and have companies start exploration work, while the Israelis already have firms drilling for gas. -Reuters




Tags: Energy | lebanon | gas exploration |

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