Last week Cesar Abi Khalil, the minister of energy and water, restarted Lebanon’s first offshore licensing round after two long awaited decrees were finally passed earlier this month. Announcing a timetable for the awarding of exploration licenses the minister said new companies would be allowed to prequalify and that 5 blocks would be open for bidding. He also announced the government’s request to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global standard promoting transparency.
46 companies prequalified when the government first launched the licensing round back in 2013 and will remain eligible so long as they still meet the criteria, the minister said. Starting next month new companies will begin submitting their paperwork to prequalify to bid and by mid-April all eligible companies will be announced. During the summer those companies will prepare their bid proposal, submitting their offers to the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA) by mid-September. Over the next two months the LPA will evaluate the proposals providing its recommendations to the Council of Ministers. By November 15 Cabinet will announce the winners.
Companies will be allowed to bid on 5 of Lebanon’s 10 offshore blocks: Block 1 in the north, Block 4 in the center, and Blocks 8, 9 and 10 in Lebanon’s southern waters. It is too early to say how many licenses the government will award or for which blocks. That will depend on the government’s strategy for awarding licenses and the competitiveness of bids.
In his closing remarks the minister announced Cabinet’s request to join the EITI. Enhancing the public’s trust and improving communication between the government and civil society were two outcomes the minister said he hoped to achieve by adopting transparency measures. At its core the EITI is a set of data points collected along the oil and gas value chain from exploration to revenue collection and government spending. The transparency standard requires a three-way partnership between the government, civil society and companies who will together define how the EITI standards apply to Lebanon.
February 2 – March 31: Pre-qualification period for new companies.
April 13: The full list of prequalified companies will be announced.
September 15: The Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA) will receive the companies’ bids for the open blocks. The LPA will then assess the bids and provide its recommendation to Council of Ministers.
November 15: The Council of Ministers will award exploration licenses.