BEIRUT: The Energy Ministry postponed for the third time an auction for the licensing of offshore gas exploration after the caretaker cabinet failed to pass two essential decrees, caretaker Minister Gebran Bassil announced Wednesday.
"The auction for the licensing of offshore gas exploration is postponed for the third time to April 10,” Bassil told reporters at a news conference at the ministry.
The original deadline was Jan. 10.
“The April 10 deadline is a final one and gives companies who want to participate in the auction enough time to come forward,” he added.
The caretaker Cabinet under PM Najib Mikati refused to convene a special session to pass two decrees related to the number of blocks to be auctioned off and to revenue sharing, despite pressure by Bassil and his allies in the March 8 group.
The Energy Ministry estimates that Lebanon has at least 95 trillion cubic feet of gas and 750 million barrels of oil in 45 percent of the country’s surveyed territorial waters.
Bassil expressed gratitude for the companies that want to take a risk in investing in Lebanon, saying he understood the reasons behind decisions by other firms who hesitated or withdrew from the tender.
He also criticized officials who opposed a Cabinet session to pass the oil decrees.
“History will remember that some officials failed to do their job and to help explore gas and oil in Lebanon,” he said, adding that the oil and gas issue should be the upcoming government’s top priority.
Bassil has warned that any delay in the licensing auction would allow Israel to siphon off the country’s gas wealth in the disputed territorial waters.
Lebanon and Israel lay claim to an area that spans some 860 square kilometers off the coast of the two countries that is said to be rich in gas and oil.