Lebanon Begins Offshore Oil And Gas Exploration
BEIRUT, May 29 (Reuters) - Lebanon's search for its first oil and gas reserves began on Tuesday after authorities approved an exploration plan submitted by a consortium of France's Total , Italy's Eni and Russia's Novatek.
Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said in a televised statement that exploration started after authorities gave the go ahead on Monday. Lebanon hoped to launch a second offshore licensing round by the end of 2018 or early 2019, he said.
In February Lebanon signed its first offshore oil and gas exploration and production agreements with the Total-Eni-Novatek consortium for offshore Blocks 4 and 9.
Part of Block 9 contains waters disputed with neighbouring Israel but the consortium has said it has no plans to drill in the disputed area.
Khalil said exploration of the two blocks would last up to three years and the first well is expected to be drilled in 2019, providing all government departments grant necessary licenses and permissions "on time and without delay".
Khalil has served as energy minister since December 2016 but is currently a caretaker minister because Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri has not yet formed a government after parliamentary elections on May 6.
Until drilling begins Lebanon will not know what reserves lie in its waters. Khalil said exploratory wells will be dug in the areas with the highest probability of commercially viable discoveries based on seismic studies.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Mark Potter and Susan Fenton)
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