BEIRUT, March 20 Ninety-seven oil companies and
more than 100 other firms have requested application documents
in the pre-qualifying bid round for oil and gas exploration in
Lebanon's offshore waters, an official at Lebanon's energy
ministry said on Wednesday.
He gave no indication of how many bids had been presented so
far, a week ahead of the March 28 deadline for submissions.
"Almost all the international oil companies have shown
interest. It is a good sign how many companies are interested in
the bidding process," said the official, who asked not to be
Names of the pre-qualified companies will be announced in
mid April and the government aims to agree its first exploration
and production agreement by February next year.
Interest in drilling in the eastern Mediterranean has grown
since two natural gas fields were discovered off Israel.
Delegates at an oil and gas conference in Beirut in December
said Lebanese waters could contain between 30 trillion and 40
trillion cubic feet of gas.
Energy Minister Gebran Bassil said in September that one
southern bloc alone could hold 12 trillion cubic feet and this
was enough gas to produce electricity for Lebanon for 99 years.
Lebanon hopes that gas discoveries could help address its
government debt and chronic domestic power shortages, but
repeated delays mean it is already several years behind its
southern neighbour in exploring those potential reserves.
(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Mark Potter)