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Lebanon closes offshore block bids

French and Russian players involved as two bids submitted by consortia for new tracts

Lebanon's Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil on Thursday said a tender had closed on a first round of offshore energy blocks, and told local media that two consortia had submitted bids.

It will take years for revenue from any of the blocks to start flowing to the country, he said in a televised news conference.

"The first licensing round for oil exploration closed," he said. The country's petroleum authority and the cabinet will evaluate the bids, he added.

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The local English-language Daily Star reported that Abi Khalil told it that two bids were submitted and that there were French, Italian and Russian companies involved in those bids.

Lebanon relaunched the licensing round for five offshore blocks (1, 4, 8, 9 and 10) in January after a three-year delay due to political paralysis. It extended the bid deadline in September.

Lebanon sits on the Levant basin in the eastern Mediterranean along with Cyprus, Egypt, Israel and Syria. A number of gas fields have been discovered there since 2009, such as the Leviathan and Tamar fields.

A total of 52 companies qualified earlier in the year to bid in this round.

When the process was first launched in 2013, 46 companies qualified to take part in bidding, 12 of them as operators, including Chevron, Total and ExxonMobil.