Lebanon began on Tuesday its first exploration for oil and gas, after Lebanese authorities approved an offshore exploration plan by an international consortium led by France’s Total, Lebanese Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said today.
Lebanon—which shares the Levant Basin with Israel, Cyprus, and Syria—has been far behind Israel, and Cyprus in exploring and developing its share of resources due to political impasse over the past few years, a dispute with Israel over Lebanon’s southern maritime border, and the lack of the legislation dividing its waters into exploration blocks.
In early 2017, Lebanon passed key legislation to advance its stalled oil and gas licensing tenders and opened five offshore blocks up for bidding, re-launching the first licensing round after three years of political impasse.
At the end of 2017, Lebanon approved the awards of two exclusive petroleum licenses for exploration and production in two blocks—block 4 and block 9—to a consortium led by Total, and comprised of Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek. Total is the operator and holds a 40-percent interest, Eni has another 40 percent, and Novatek owns the remaining 20-percent stake.
The consortium signed in February two exploration and production agreements covering Blocks 4 and 9 offshore Lebanon, providing for the drilling of at least one well per block in the first three years. The consortium’s priority will be to drill a first exploration well on Block 4 next year, Total said.
“As for Block 9, Total and its partners are fully aware of the Israeli-Lebanese border dispute in the southern part of the block that covers only a very limited area (less than 8% of the block’s surface). Given that, the main prospects are located more than 25km from the disputed area, the consortium confirms that the exploration well on Block 9 will have no interference at all with any fields or prospects located south of the border area,” the French company said at the time.
In a televised statement on Tuesday, minister Khalil said that Lebanon hoped it would launch a second offshore licensing round by the end of this year or early next year.