Israel awards gas exploration licences to ENI, BP and four others

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel’s Energy Ministry said on Sunday it had awarded 12 licenses to six companies to explore for natural gas off the country’s Mediterranean coast, aiming to create more competition and diversify suppliers.

It said that one group that includes ENI, Dana Petroleum and Ratio Energies will explore in an area west of the massive Leviathan field, which supplies Israel with gas and is also used for export.

Another group comprised of BP Socar and NewMed will explore north of the Leviathan, the ministry said.

“The winning companies have committed to unprecedented investment in natural gas exploration over the next three years, which would hopefully result in the discovery of new natural gas reservoirs,” said Energy Minister Israel Katz.

The license period is for an initial three years, with the option to extend to up seven years, depending on progress.

This, the ministry said, will enable the license holder to first study the area and only then decide whether to continue development.

Large gas deposits were discovered in the east Mediterranean over the past decade and a half, and Israel hopes more will be found to increase reserves and advance plans to export gas to Europe, which is looking for new energy sources.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Steven Scheer; Editing by Susan Fenton and Giles Elgood)