Lebanon’s gas exploration: A glimmer of hope amid crisis

A consortium comprised of French, Italian, and Qatari energy companies initiated offshore exploration in Block 9 of the eastern Mediterranean on Tuesday, marking a promising development in Lebanon’s long-awaited gas initiatives.

TotalEnergies, Eni, and QatarEnergy embarked on their exploration approximately 120 kilometers from Beirut. The commencement was attended by Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati, parliament speaker Nabih Berri, and other key officials, as highlighted by the National News Agency.

While TotalEnergies’ general manager in Lebanon, Romain de La Martiniere, stated that the substantive drilling is set to commence in the forthcoming days, this venture is not without its historical challenges. The original agreement for gas exploration was signed between TotalEnergies, Eni, and Russia’s Novatek in 2018. However, they halted operations in Block 4 in 2020 due to inadequate gas finds. Block 9’s exploration faced postponements, largely attributed to Lebanon’s maritime border disputes with Israel. These differences were finally settled in October, leading to a swift call for energy exploration in Block 9.

This recent exploration venture is bolstered by the Transocean Barents rig, which arrived at Block 9 last week. While Novatek exited the consortium last year, QatarEnergy joined earlier this year, resulting in both TotalEnergies and Eni holding 35% stakes each and QatarEnergy retaining the remaining 30%.

The significance of this endeavour cannot be overstated. Lebanon, plagued by acute electricity shortages exacerbated by the economic and political turmoil since 2019, finds its residents grappling with electricity accessibility for merely one to three hours daily. Escalated fuel prices, due to dependency on fuel-powered generators, have aggravated the situation.

A potential solution lies in Lebanon’s budding natural gas sector. However, the country’s aspirations to leverage its offshore oil and gas reserves have been hampered by multifaceted challenges, ranging from complex geological conditions and domestic political challenges to diplomatic tensions related to maritime boundaries.

Despite these adversities, Lebanon’s renewed attempt at offshore exploration, supported by significant international stakeholders, might just signal a turning point in the nation’s energy and economic trajectory.

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Tags : Lebanon