BEIRUT: Lebanon on Friday signed its first offshore oil and gas exploration and production agreements for two blocks during a ceremony attended by President Michel Aoun in Beirut.
The government had approved two bids by an international consortium of energy companies, comprising France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek. Officials from the three oil companies participated in the signing ceremony.
In December 2017, the consortium came forward with bids for blocks 4 and 9 of the five blocks that were open for bidding. Lebanon's exclusive economic zone is divided into 10 blocks in total.
The consortium is expected to start drilling in Lebanon's Exclusive Economic Zone in 2019, Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said.
Israel has in recent days escalated its threats against Lebanon over planned offshore gas exploration in block 9. A small section of block 9 is part of a disputed triangular area of around 860 sq km that extends along the edge of three of Lebanon’s 10 offshore blocks.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had suggested that Lebanon had put out invitations for bids for a gas field "which is by all accounts ours."
Total said in a statement the disputed waters comprise 8 percent of Block 9 and that its exploration well “will have no interference at all with any fields or prospects” in the disputed sliver of water.
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