Lebanon’s newly formed Petroleum Administration Authority (PAA) has announced the start of prequalification for its first offshore oil and gas exploration round.

International oil and gas firms have until 28 March to submit their documents for inclusion in the bid round, which is planned for 2 May.

Companies have also been invited to visit the administration’s data room in Beirut to see technical reports and seismic data. A framework document that contains basic geographic, seismic, surface and well information is currently available at no cost.

Lebanon’s 22,730-square-kilometres offshore area in the eastern Mediterranean has never previously been licensed for exploration. However, the Energy & Water Ministry says recent deepwater, sub-salt gas discoveries to the south and west of its area have raised industry interest in Lebanon and the wider offshore Levant.

In 2010, the US’ Noble Energy made a significant discovery of 17 trillion cubic feet of natural gas at its Leviathan concession off the coast of Israel, which lies near the maritime border with Lebanon.

The PAA was appointed by the Energy & Water Ministry in November 2012 to manage the offshore licensing process. A strategic environmental assessment study has also been completed, as have model contracts for exploration and production and joint operating agreements. The delineation of the offshore blocks is also ready.

In 2011, French consultant group Beicip-Franlab was contracted to interpret more than 10,000 kilometres of 2D seismic data and to prepare a regional interpretation report. This was followed by 3D interpretation analysis, basin modelling and prospectivity studies. It says there are at least 5 hydrocarbon reservoirs in the northern offshore area along the maritime border with Cyprus and Syria. Beicip-Franlab estimates that Lebanon has reserves of between 440 million to 675 million barrels.