Lebanon delays gas exploration bid deadline to January

BEIRUT Mon Oct 7, 2013 3:58am EDT

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's Energy Ministry has delayed its offshore gas licensing round by a month until January after politicians failed to form a new government which could approve decrees needed to launch the bidding process.

The ministry said Energy Minister Gebran Bassil had put back the auction date for exploration blocs to January 10, 2014.

Bassil also wrote to President Michel Suleiman and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati requesting a special cabinet meeting to approve the proposed exploration blocs and the exploration and production contracts, the ministry said in a statement.

Without approval of those documents Lebanon's efforts to exploit maritime reserves which Bassil has estimated at over 30 trillion cubic feet are on hold.

Since Mikati resigned in March his designated successor, Tammam Salam, has sought unsuccessfully to form a new government, leaving the country run by a caretaker administration with limited powers, unable to press on with the gas project.

Lebanon selected 46 companies in April to bid for gas exploration, 12 of them as operators and 34 as non-operators.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans; editing by Jason Neely)

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