BEIRUT May 9 Lebanese authorities said on
Tuesday they will press ahead with the country's first oil and
gas licensing round regardless of uncertainty over a
twice-postponed general election.
"I am sure and certain that all the political parties are
determined and are committed to make this licensing round
succeed," Minister of Energy and Water Cesar Abou Khalil told
"We have a government that is fully functional and
homogenous ... We are pretty sure that the agenda and roadmap
for the licensing round will be respected."
Lebanon's tender process for offshore exploration and
production stalled in 2013 because political deadlock left the
country with no president for 2-1/2 years and squabbling between
parties prevented the passage of necessary laws.
But late last year, a president and prime minister were
chosen. A newly formed government restarted the tender process
in January by passing two important hydrocarbon
decrees and holding a pre-qualification round in April.
Uncertainty reared its head again when President Michel Aoun
suspended parliament for a month in mid-April, temporarily
blocking plans to extend the assembly's term with no popular
vote for a third time since 2013 to try to push for electoral
law reforms and to hold a parliamentary election.
But oil and gas will no longer be subject to political
deadlock, the chairman of the board of directors of the Lebanese
Petroleum Administration, Wissam Chbat, told the third Lebanon
International Oil and Gas Summit in Beirut.
"We are decoupled from the political track, there has been a
lot of consensus from all political parties towards achieving a
successful bid round. Everyone is putting his effort towards
achieving that," Chbat said.
The delay in development has come at a cost, Chbat told
Reuters, as oil and gas prices have fallen significantly and
east Mediterranean neighbours such as Egypt, Cyprus and Israel
have been developing their sectors.
"In 2013 we had better dynamics for the industry, better
prices for oil and gas and better conditions," Chbat said.
The Lebanese government has estimated with a probability of
50 percent it has 96 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves
and 865 million barrels of oil offshore, but the true size of
the reserves cannot be known until exploration begins.
"There is much more than the local market needs and a big
portion of it would be for export," Chbat said.
Chbat said 60 targets had been identified as potential
Lebanon could pass a taxation law needed for the hydrocarbon
sector this month, Chbat said.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Dale Hudson)