Cyprus on Tuesday awarded provisional gas exploration licenses to energy companies in four offshore blocks out of a total of 12 in its exclusive economic zones.Commerce Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis told reporters after an extraordinary session of the council of ministers that the new licenses were for blocks 2, 3, 9 and 11. Silikiotis said the reason behind the allocation of these blocks was their proximity to block 12, where a natural gas field estimated to contain 7 trillion cubic feet has already been discovered by Texas-based Noble Energy. He said any gas finds in these blocks could be more easily developed by making use of a planned undersea pipe to carry gas from block 12 to the south shore of Cyprus. Cyprus is discussing the construction of the pipe with Israel. Silikiotis said blocks 2 and 3 were given to a syndicate made up by Italian ENI and South Korean KOGAS. A conglomerate made up of French TOTAL and Russian energy companies NOVATEC and GP Global Resources was authorized to operate in block 9. French TOTAL, which also bid separately, was also authorized to operate in block 11. Silikiotis said negotiations with successful bidders which will finalize the licensing will be completed in 2013. He added the process for awarding licenses for the rest of the offshore blocks would continue. A total of about 15 energy companies and syndicates submitted bids for exploration licenses earlier this year.