Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure has announced that four groups of companies have made bids for exploration of additional offshore natural gas fields, as part of the country’s fourth competitive procedure.

The groups include a total of nine companies. Of these, five are new to the Israeli market, the ministry noted.

Over the past 15 years, several companies have discovered huge deposits of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean, with the potential to turn Israel into an energy exporter, reported Reuters.

Israel launched the fourth offshore bidding round in December 2022 for natural gas exploration for four zones in the east Mediterranean, to help increase the country’s natural gas supply security.

These zones are made up of 20 exploration blocks within the Israel Exclusive Economic Zone, covering a total area of 5,888km².

The ministry said in a statement: “The purpose of the procedure is to enable the discovery of additional natural gas reserves in the economic waters of the State of Israel.

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“The scope of the proposals and the diversity of the bidders will lead to new companies searching for natural gas in Israel’s economic waters, and as natural gas is found, the certainty of energy supply to the Israeli economy will increase, competition will expand and the state’s revenues will increase.”

The country plans to assess the bids in the coming weeks prior to selecting winners, the ministry said.

The Israel Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure Natural Treasures Administration director Chen Bar-Yosef said: “We are at the beginning of another and important phase for the future of the country’s energy economy and are confident that through a correct combination of existing and future technologies, we will know how to produce this energy with maximum income for the citizens of Israel and minimal impact on the environment.”