Malta has awarded a one-year oil exploration licence to Edison International in areas north of the island.

The company had been granted a licence to explore offshore blocks 1, 2 and 3 totalling approximately 6,400 square kilometres, the government said.

The licence may be extended by a further two years subject to an additional work programme.

The company is to conduct geological and geophysical studies on existing data.

Edison International is wholly owned by Edison Exploration which holds  90 licences in 10 countries in the Mediterranean area and Northern Europe with an average daily production of approximately 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent.

Oil exploration off Malta has been at a standstill over the past few years but in late 2017 the government appeared to be trying to start a new push for  exploration when it issued a notice in the official journal of the European Union saying that Blocks 1, 2 and 3 were available "for authorisation on a permanent basis under either an exploration licence or an exploration and production licence".

In 2016, oil exploration firm Rockhopper said it would not renew its agreement for oil exploration in Area 3. The agreement expired in December. The operator, Cairn Energy had told Times of Malta that it was not conducting any activity in Malta and it had “no news to report” when asked about its plans for 2017. 

In July 2017, the government appointed former Air Malta chairman Maria Micallef as head of the National Oil Corporation within the Office of the Prime Minister. 

The history of Malta’s oil exploration efforts has been disappointing. Oil exploration efforts have been made offshore north and south of Malta as well as onshore both in Malta and Gozo. Thirteen wells were drilled in the past 60 years, but no results were achieved. Interest in oil exploration also eased when prices collapsed.

Malta's oil exploration efforts also led to tensions with countries Malta had considered as friends. The most prominent incident occurred in the 1980s when Libya sent a gunboat to stop an Italian oil rig from drilling for Malta in an area it considered as its own.

The issue of delineation of the continental shelf also led to problems with Italy and in 2015 the two countries informally agreed to observe a moratorium on oil exploration activities in a vast offshore area southeast of Sicily and Malta where both countries have overlapping claims.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.