BEIRUT, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Lebanon will seek bids from Feb.
1 from companies wanting to pre-qualify for oil and gas
exploration drilling in its Mediterranean waters and has set a
May 2 date for formal applications, a government spokesman said.
Seismic surveys of Lebanon's waters suggest they contain
several trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Energy and Water
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.
Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour told reporters after
a cabinet session on Thursday that a shortlist of pre-qualified
companies would be announced on March 21.
"The date for submission of requests for (drilling) licences
will be May 2," Abu Faour said. Officials say they expect final
agreement on licensing to be reached in March 2014.
Interest in drilling in the eastern Mediterranean has grown
since two natural gas fields were discovered off Israel,
Lebanon's southern neighbour.
Lebanon has been hoping that sizeable gas discoveries could
help address both its high level of government debt and chronic
domestic power shortages.
It had planned to launch tenders for exploration drilling
more than six months ago, but delays in setting up an oil and
gas oversight committee forced a postponement.
Delegates at an oil and gas conference in Beirut earlier
this month said Lebanese waters could contain between 30
trillion and 40 trillion cubic feet of gas.
(Reporting by Laila Bassam; Editing by Anthony Barker)