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Beirut delays offshore energy auction

Lebanese government wants bigger stake in energy revenue.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   July 15, 2014 at 9:42 AM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, July 15 (UPI) -- Lebanon's government postponed an offshore natural gas auction after rancor erupted Tuesday over the amount of revenue Beirut would get from energy companies.

The Lebanese government estimates there are 95 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 750 million barrels of oil in its territorial waters. A committee led by Prime Minister Tammam Salam has only met a few times to discuss offshore prospects since it was formed early this year.

A source close to ministerial negotiations for the auction told The Daily Star newspaper in Beirut policymakers "believe that the state should have a bigger royalty and higher taxes from the profits generated by the oil companies once the actual drilling starts."

Royalties of between 5 and 12 percent were seen as too low when compared with other countries. Lebanese Energy and Water Minister Arthur Nazarian is set in August to outline a new date for the auction.

Lebanon's first-ever offshore auction was rescheduled Aug. 10, the fourth time the auction was postponed. A caretaker government in January was blamed for the one of the more recent delays because of differences over the number of reserve areas up for auction.

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