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The Lebanese caretaker government has awarded TotalEnergies temporary control of an offshore gas block after the exit of Russian Novatek last month.
Reuters reports that now the Lebanese government and TotalEnergies will begin negotiations with Qatar over taking a stake in the project.
According to documents produced by the Lebanese government and seen by Reuters, the 20 percent that Novatek held in the project was transferred to another company and TotalEnergies’ 40-percent holding in the gas block was also transferred to another company. Details about the ownership of the two companies, Daja 2016 and Daja 2015 were not disclosed.
Lebanon is eager to develop its potential gas reserves like its neighbor Israel, which has made several major discoveries in recent years. Yet a maritime border dispute between the two countries has delayed Lebanon’s exploration plans.
The dispute centered on yet another gas deposit, the Karish field, which lies between the two countries. The field’s reserves are estimated at 1.41 trillion cubic feet. The final investment decision on developing the field was made in 2018.
According to Israel, Karish lies in its territorial waters. According to Lebanon, it falls within a triangle of contested waters because the two cannot agree on where exactly the border passes.
As Reuters put it in a report from earlier this year, "Israel claims the boundary runs further north than Lebanon accepts, while Lebanon claims it runs further south than Israel accepts, leaving a triangle of disputed waters."
Meanwhile, UK-based Energean began drilling at the Karish field earlier this month, while Israel and Lebanon negotiated a U.S.-brokered maritime border deal. The deal was agreed upon this month and should enter into effect this week.
Under the agreement, the Karish oil and gas field and an area known as the Qanaa prospect are expected to be in Israeli and Lebanese waters, respectively. Lebanon said TotalEnergies will begin exploration work on the Qanaa prospect immediately.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.