Israel’s Energy Ministry has initiated a bidding round for natural gas exploration for four zones in the east Mediterranean, amid the worldwide energy crisis.

The four zones comprise 20 exploration blocks, covering a total area of 5,888km², according to the Xinhua news agency.

The fourth competitive procedure comes as countries look to diversify natural gas supplies because of the global energy crisis.

The ministry said the bidding round aims to increase the country’s certainty of natural gas supplies, cut consumer prices, and expand competition between suppliers.

Israel Minister of Energy Karin Elharer said the procedure for natural gas exploration in Israel’s economic waters will allow for increased competition, the creation of supply stability for the local economy, and the signing of additional agreements for natural gas exports.

For the 12 blocks, the working period includes two drill-or-drop decision points following three and five years. This period could be extended to up to seven years.

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One of the four zones being offered in the bidding round is located adjacent to the maritime border with Lebanon, according to Reuters.

In a press statement, Israel Minister of Energy said: “The decision to market the areas in bundles of licenses is intended to enable a more correct matching of the search areas to the existing geological structures in the sea that may contain natural resources.”

“In some of the clusters, exploration licenses have already been granted in the past, and seismic surveys and other exploration operations have been carried out, indicating a possible potential for the discovery of hydrocarbon reserves.”