Lebanon is inviting international companies to bid on its first offshore licensing round, launched three years ago before political paralysis froze further development.

Following decrees passed by the new cabinet in January, the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA) is offering five offshore blocks 1, 4, 8, 9 and 10 for potential bidders.

The 34 companies, including the UK/Dutch Royal Dutch Shell, Italy’s Eni, France’s Total, the US’ Exxon Mobil and the US’ Chevron that qualified in 2013 as operators are still eligible to bid on the blocks, provided they still meet the energy ministry’s criteria. Twelve firms that qualified as non-operators including Austria’s OMV and UK’s Dana Petroleum can qualify as operators in the latest round, if they meet criteria.

The pre-qualification round will begin on 2 February and will close on 31 March.

The ministry will publish the list of pre-qualified companies on April 13.

The deadline to place bids in 15 September, and list of applicants per block will be published on 22 September. The LPA will evaluate bids on 16 October and exploration and production agreements will be signed on 15 November.

Lebanon is awaiting a petroleum tax law, currently under discussion in the cabinet to help exploit its natural resources.