July 18, 2024

TotalEnergies says gas exploration rig arrives off Lebanon

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French firm TotalEnergies said Wednesday that a drilling rig had reach Lebanese waters ahead of exploration for offshore gas reserves, months after a landmark accord demarcating the Lebanon-Israel maritime border.

“TotalEnergies, the operator of Block 9, announces the arrival of the drilling rig, Transocean Barents, on the block, at around 120 kilometers (75 miles) off the coast of Beirut,” a statement said, adding that a transport helicopter had also reached Beirut airport.

Beirut divided its exclusive economic zone at sea into 10 blocks, and Block 9 was part of an area disputed with Israel.

“The arrival of the equipment marks an important step in the preparation of the drilling of the exploration well in Block 9, which will begin towards the end of August,” TotalEnergies added.

In October last year, a US-mediated maritime border agreement between Lebanon and Israel opened up potentially lucrative offshore gas fields for the eastern Mediterranean neighbours.

Block 9 contains the so-called Qana field or Sidon reservoir, parts of which fall in Israel’s territorial waters.

Under the deal, Lebanon gained full rights to operate and explore Qana, but Israel will receive compensation from the firm operating the reservoir.

There are still no proven gas deposits there, but a 2012 seismic study by the British firm Spectrum estimated Lebanon’s recoverable gas reserves at 719.2 billion cubic meters (25.4 trillion cubic feet).

Lebanese officials have announced higher estimates.

“A new page has been written today. When the logistical team is ready in a few days, drilling will begin,” Energy Minister Walid Fayad said.

The results will be known in two to three months, he added.

Since late 2019, Lebanon has been caught in an economic collapse that has plunged most of its population into poverty and been described by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history.

The country is plagued by chronic power cuts and has at times seen fuel shortages.

Many Lebanese politicians have expressed hope that gas exploration can offer a way out of the economic crisis, as officials fail to implement reforms demanded by international creditors in return for bailout funds.

But analysts have warned Beirut cannot count on gas alone to ease its economic woes, and that it will take several years to begin exploiting the Qana field, should a commercially viable discovery be made.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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