ATHENS, May 19 (Reuters) - Greece's energy minister held talks on Friday with representatives of U.S. oil major ExxonMobil and France's Total about gas exploration opportunities off Greek shores, the energy ministry said.
A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a consortium of ExxonMobil, Total and Greece's biggest oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum are expected to submit an offer "in the coming period" for exploration south of Crete.
Friday's meeting focused on "prospects for exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits," the energy ministry said in a statement.
Greece has made several fruitless attempts over the last 50 years to find big oil and gas reserves, but its debt crisis has prompted it to step up those efforts.
Athens previously tendered blocks off Crete, its southernmost island north of Egypt and Libya and west of Cyprus, in 2013 but did not receive bids.
The country is also hoping to find gas off western Greece and last year named a consortium of Total, Hellenic Petroleum and Italy's Edison as the preferred bidder for an offshore gas drilling block in the Ionian Sea. Licensing is expected this year.
Exploring for gas in the Mediterranean has become more attractive since Italy's Eni discovered Egypt's offshore Zohr field in the Levant Basin in 2015, the biggest gas field in the Mediterranean and estimated to contain 850 billion cubic metres of gas.
(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris, Lefteris Papadimas and Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Susan Fenton)