October 13, 2017 / 4:44 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Total-ENI-Novatek consortium bids for Lebanon offshore blocks

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BEIRUT, Oct 13 (Reuters) - The only bidder in Lebanon’s first tender for five offshore energy blocks was a consortium made up of France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and Russia’s Novatek, Minister of Energy and Water Cesar Abi Khalil said on Friday.

The consortium submitted two bids for block 4 and block 9, Abi Khalil said in a statement on Facebook. The tender process closed on Thursday.

Lebanon sits on the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean along with Cyprus, Egypt, Israel and Syria. A number of gas fields have been discovered there since 2009, such as the Leviathan and Tamar fields.

Block 9 borders Israeli waters. Lebanon considers Israel an enemy state and has an unresolved maritime border dispute with it over a triangular area of sea around 860 sq km that extends along the edge of three of the five blocks put up for tender.

The country relaunched the licensing round for five offshore blocks (1, 4, 8, 9 and 10) in January after a three-year delay due to political problems.

“The results of the first licensing round were positive in that Lebanon managed to attract international companies with high expertise in gas field exploration and development, and in bringing petroleum to international markets,” Abi Khalil said.

Lebanon extended the bid deadline in September because companies wanted more time and to see a long-awaited petroleum tax law which was then passed, the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA) has said.

A total of 51 companies qualified earlier in the year to bid in this round, according to the LPA.

When the process was first launched in 2013, 46 companies qualified to take part in bidding, 12 of them as operators, including Chevron Corp, Total SA and Exxon Mobil Corp.

The LPA will now evaluate the bids and present them to the energy minister by Nov. 13. Final approval will then be sought from Lebanon’s council of ministers.

The exploration phase lasts up to five years with a possible one-year extension, the LPA said.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington. Editing by Jane Merriman

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