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Lebanon Defends Right To Drill For Gas In Offshore Blocks

Natural Gas Rig

The Lebanese oil ministry will move forward in its much-anticipated oil and gas tender, despite the inclusion of disputed territories in some of the allotted blocks, a new report says.

Current explorations taking place in an offshore gas field are “by all accounts” part of Israel, according to the Israeli defense minister. Lebanese minister Cesar Abi Khalil, on the other hand, considers the statement to be an aggression against Beirut, since Lebanon has demarcated its maritime borders and reported them to the United Nations previously.

In December, the results of Lebanon’s first tender authorized Eni, Total, and Novatek to explore natural gas prospects in two offshore blocks.

Heated letters sent to the UN by Beirut and Jerusalem from 2010-2011 showed the two nations squabbling over the right to claim an 860 kilometer triangular area as part of their respective exclusive economic zones. The dispute is still active, but energy companies are accustomed to working around border disagreements, usually by agreeing to develop a contentious block without touching areas considered to be the most contentious.

Lebanon and neighboring Cyprus signed an agreement delineating their maritime boundaries in 2007, but it remains unratified.

U.K.-based Spectrum performed surveys on the area between 2006 and 2013. The 2D and 3D seismic tests, which covered over 70 percent of Lebanese coastal waters, said the seabed could hold anywhere between 12 to 25 trillion cubic feet of it being recoverable. Before drilling began last month, Lebanon had not achieved a single well in its seabed, so all analysis of potential reserves need to be taken with a grain of salt.

In 2013, former energy minister Gebran Basil said reserves within Lebanese waters totaled 95.9 trillion cubic feet, emphasizing that reserves may be larger than previously expected. These figures were speculative, put out at a press conference to drum up excitement for the licensing round.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh G Salameh on February 02 2018 said:
    The dispute between Lebanon and Israel dates back to the discovery of the huge Israeli gasfield known as the Leviathan in 2010. The Leviathan with proven reserves of 16 trillion cubic feet (tcf) was the largest discovered gasfield in the eastern Mediterranean until the August 2015 discovery of the Zohr gasfield off the coast of Egypt with proven reserves estimated at 31 tcf.

    However, the development of the Leviathan triggered a boundary dispute between Lebanon and Israel with Lebanon accusing Israel of violating its maritime rights. Lebanon says that up to one-third of the Leviathan gasfield could be inside its maritime border.

    Lebanon and Israel have not defined their maritime border since the withdrawal of Israeli troops in 2000, leaving a slice of contested territory.

    The dispute is mostly a demarcation issue. When Israeli troops withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, the U.N.-sanctioned Blue Line became the de facto land border between the two countries. Israel unilaterally extended a line of buoys out into the sea to approximate a maritime border. But Lebanese officials say the angle Israel took from the shore gives it more territorial water than it deserves.

    Lebanese coastal waters could hold estimated reserves of 12-25 tcf though Lebanese authorities claimed previously a figure of 95.9 tcf.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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