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Seismic surveys now show that Lebanon’s portion of the prolific Levant Basin is showing promising oil and gas reserves, as the country lags far behind Israel in tapping into this Mediterranean hydrocarbon wealth.
After years of delay, Lebanon’s petroleum authority has finally obtained seismic surveys—tasked as far back as 2002—showing that oil reservoirs in the southern region, particularly in Blocks 8 and 9, could have significant potential.
Surveys obtained by the petroleum authority have now been submitted to Lebanon’s Speaker, Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian, according to Lebanese media reports.
The reports claim to reveal new information proving the presence of oil, most prominently in Block 8.
While Lebanon has delayed key legislation that would allow exploration of the Levant Basin to move forward—due largely to a failure to reach a political quorum—Israel’s recent move to authorize the development of its giant Leviathan gas field has made the issue more urgent in Beirut.
The two country’s oilfields could overlap, and the concern for Lebanon is that Israel has a considerable head start. Lebanon and Israel dispute a maritime zone that covers over 850 square kilometers and is believed to contain considerable oil and gas reserves.
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In 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated a mean of 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a mean of 34.5 trillion cubic meters of recoverable gas in the Levant Basin. Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Cyprus all share this basin.
The Energy Ministry had drafted an Exploration and Production Agreement, and 43 international oil majors had submitted bids for “promising” finds in Lebanese waters, but the process stalled in March 2013 with a change in government. Two decrees necessary to approve the international tender went unsigned. Disagreements remain over the designation of blocks open for bidding, as well as over the terms of the draft exploration agreement.
There is a sudden new push to move forward now, but political inaction continues to rule the day.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com