The latest development comes after a major breakthrough in the maritime borders dispute between Lebanon and Israel following US mediation.
Drilling for oil and gas off the coast of Lebanon will kickstart in September following the finalisation of the tripartite consortium, which includes Doha’s state energy company, QatarEnergy.
Beirut’s caretaker energy minister Walid Fayyad confirmed the date of the drilling at the exploration block off the coast of Lebanon, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
“The rig will start working in Lebanon in September … before the end of the year we will know if there is a discovery,” Fayyad told reporters on the sidelines of the World Utilities Congress in Abu Dhabi, as quoted by the news agency.
In January, QatarEnergy joined a three-way oil and gas exploration consortium in two maritime blocks in Lebanon, a move that analysts believed is beneficial for the crisis-hit country.
Under the agreement, the Qatari company will join France’s TotalEnergies and Italy’s Eni following months of talks to explore blocks 4 and 9. QatarEnergy has now acquired a 30% stake, as each of the other two countries hold 35%.
The Qatari company replaced Russia’s Novatek, which owned 20% and pulled out last year, passing on its stakes to the Lebanese government. The Russian withdrawal prompted Beirut to seek another partner in order to commence exploration.
The Lebanese caretaker energy minister said that a discovery would determine the extension of a deadline for exploration for eight other blocs.
“I have been hearing from players in the field that they are keen to see the result of the drilling in Bloc 9 before they make decisions as to further investments or commitments in Lebanon,” Fayyad said.
He added that Lebanon must adapt if it does not have enough interest and players.”
The discovery would benefit Lebanon’s population as it faces the country’s worst economic crisis in years. As a result, many Lebanese have limited electricity access with long lines of cars stretched outside gas stations becoming a norm.
The latest development comes after a major breakthrough in the maritime borders dispute between Lebanon and Israel following United States mediation. Qatar previously welcomed the US mediation in the dispute, which dates back to 2007.
Under the US-mediated deal, Lebanon and Israel cannot carry out any exploration in Block 9.
The resolved rift between Lebanon and Israel was triggered in 2007 when Beirut and Nicosia signed an agreement to delimit their maritime border.
Then in 2010, Israel and Cyprus then signed an agreement over the same zones mentioned in the agreement signed by Lebanon and Cyprus.
Unlike Cyprus, Lebanon has no diplomatic ties with Israel and refuses to normalise with the Zionist state, which has previously waged deadly wars on Beirut.
The issue then resurfaced in 2017 when Lebanon inked a gas exploration and production agreement with various companies, including France’s Total.
The French company had refused to begin operations on Block 9—situated in the disputed zone —until the maritime issue was resolved.
In 2011, then-US envoy mediator between Beirut and Tel Aviv Frederic Hof presented a compromise to caretaker Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati to give Lebanon 55% of the area and the remaining 45% to Israel.
During the same year, Lebanon issued Decree 6433 to the UN to claim Line 23, which does not fall on the Karish field. To date, Israel maintains that the field is in its economic zone.