TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) on Monday said it was working towards exploiting its new Lebanon Block 9 offshore gas project from next year, adding that it would likely select the vendor for a new drilling rig in the the first quarter of 2023.

“Pre-orders have also been placed with suppliers for equipment required,” the company added in a statement.

Total said its chief executive and chairman Patrick Pouyanné had confirmed these objectives when he recently met with Lebanon’s caretaker energy minister, Walid Fayad, at the firm’s Paris headquarters.

In October, The French oil and gas major reached a deal with the Lebanese government on the fate of the gas field, as a landmark maritime border agreement with Israel was coming into force.

Offshore areas in the eastern Mediterranean and Levant have yielded major gas discoveries in the past decade. Interest in them has grown since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted flows.

The initial exploration licence for Block 9 was held by a consortium of TotalEnergies, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek (NVTK.MM), but the structure of the deal had been restructured after Novatek exited the group as a result of the war in Ukraine.