Lebanon keen to clear way for gas exploration tender

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Consensus is building up to remove all hurdles before the launch of the offshore gas-exploration tender round, Energy and Water Minister Arthur Nazarian said Friday.

“We had a positive meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail on the need to pass two decrees which is a condition to launch the offshore gas licensing round,” Nazarian told The Daily Star.

The meeting was also attended by a number of lawmakers and members of the Petroleum Administration.

But the minister ruled out the possibility of a Cabinet session before the end of this month.

“There is definitely no political differences on the oil and gas issue. All sides are aware of the importance of this sector. But the priority for the government now is to handle the trash crisis,” he added.

The two decrees are related to block delineation, and the tender protocol and the model exploration and production agreement (EPA).

Successive governments have failed to pass these two decrees due to political differences over many issues.

However, the issue rose high in the agenda after news that Israel is moving closer to the Lebanese potential gas reserves off the southern coast of the country.

Nazarian and MP Mohammad Qabbani told the paper that there are no reservations on the two decrees, noting that all sides want to proceed with the licensing round as soon as possible.

Sources also said that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has promised to raise the issue of the gas and oil exploration in the next national dialogue meeting on Dec. 21.

Nazarian said once the two decrees are passed, he will set a date for the offshore gas licensing round.

“But of course we need to do a roadshow in many countries in a bid to attract more international oil firms to take part in the licensing round,” the minister explained.

Qabbani stressed that all of Lebanon’s 10 blocks will be offered to the companies and these firms can select any number of them.

A member of the Petroleum Administration said the meeting with Salam was very positive but added that no date was set yet for the Cabinet to discuss and approve the two decrees.

But there is a possibility that Salam may call for a meeting of the Cabinet committee this month to discuss the two decrees and then pass the decision to the government for final approval.

Nazarian stressed that international oil companies are still interested in bidding for gas exploration in Lebanon despite the delay in passing the two decrees.

 

Source: The Daily Star