Israel has awarded 12 licences to six companies to explore natural gas offshore the Mediterranean coast, reported Reuters.

Italian energy company Eni and UK-based oil and gas major BP are among the awardees, which are divided into two groups.

The country’s energy ministry said a consortium comprising Eni, Dana Petroleum and Ratio Energies will conduct exploration activities west of the Leviathan field.

Gas from the operational Leviathan field, which is said to be Israel’s largest offshore gas field with an estimated 22 trillion cubic feet of gas, is used for both domestic and export purposes.

According to the ministry, a different team made up of BP, Socar and NewMed will explore the area north of the Leviathan.

According to the Times of Israel, Israel’s Energy Minister, Israel Katz said: “The winning companies have committed to unprecedented investments in natural gas exploration over the coming three years, in the hope of discovering new natural gas reserves.”

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By GlobalData

Katz expects the discoveries to “strengthen Israel’s energy security, international ties, lower the cost of living and provide energy support to accelerate the transition of the economy to renewable energies.”

According to the ministry, the goal of the offshore licensing is to increase competition, guarantee supply to the local market, increase state income and facilitate the signing of new gas export agreements.

This is the fourth offshore exploration licensing round for natural gas exploration in Israel’s economic waters.

Initially, the licence will be granted for a period of three years, with the option to extend it up to a maximum of seven years.

Licence holders will be able to extend their licence term following the drilling of at least one well and the completion of the supplementary work plan.

Earlier this month, Israel halted production from its offshore Tamar gas field in the wake of war with Palestinian militant group Hamas.