Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 4 April 2020

Lebanon to begin offshore oil and gas exploration on Thursday

President Michel Aoun hails ‘historic’ step in transforming Lebanese economy

The drilling ship Tungsten Explorer is seen off the coast of Beirut on Wednesday. AP
The drilling ship Tungsten Explorer is seen off the coast of Beirut on Wednesday. AP

Lebanon's search for offshore oil and gas will begin on Thursday, President Michel Aoun said, as the country grappled with an unprecedented financial crisis.

The results from the first exploratory well are expected in the next two months, the chairman of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration said earlier on Wednesday.

Lebanon is on the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean, where large undersea gasfields have been found since 2009, including near the disputed marine border with Israel.

A consortium of France's Total, Italy's Eni and Russia's Novatek signed an agreement with Lebanon in 2018 to explore for oil and gas in two offshore blocks.

A discovery would be a major boost for the battered Lebanese economy but it could take several years for revenues to reach the treasury.

"We are going through the harshest economic and financial crisis of Lebanon's modern history," Mr Aoun said in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday night.

He hailed the country's first exploration as a "historic" step that would "represent a cornerstone to rise from the abyss" and transform the economy.

"Our will is to revive confidence and restore the cycle of life to normal," Mr Aoun said.

The much-delayed search will start with the first well to be drilled in Block 4 and preparation is under way to drill wells in Block 9 this year.

"We'll get results in the next two months. If they are positive, we'll move to the second phase of appraisal," Lebanese Petroleum Administration chairman Walid Nasr said at the presidential palace with a delegation from Total.

Raymond Ghajar, the Energy and Water Minister, said good results would be positive for Lebanon's ratings but noted it could be years before any find is extracted.

"There are too many ifs. First, we need to drill, then find, then see the amount, then see what we can extract after two, three or four years," Mr Ghajar said.

Updated: February 27, 2020 02:22 AM

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