Qatar replaces Russian firm in Lebanese gas exploration

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon, two international oil giants and state-owned oil and gas company Qatar Energy signed an agreement on Sunday for a Qatari firm to join a consortium to seek gas in the Mediterranean Sea off Lebanon. Did.

The deal signed in Beirut brings Qatar into Lebanon’s gas exploration market three months after Lebanon and Israel signed a US-brokered maritime border agreement. Qatar Energy will replace a Russian company that pulled out of the Lebanese market in September.

In 2017, Lebanon approved the licenses of an international consortium including France’s TotalEnergies, Italy’s ENI and Russia’s Novatek to advance offshore oil and gas development in two of the 10 Mediterranean blocks. The border of his one of the two blocs was disputed by neighboring Israel until a maritime border agreement was signed last year.

The two companies have failed to find viable amounts of oil or gas in Block 4 in northern Beirut, and drilling in Block 9 in the south has been repeatedly postponed due to conflicts with Israel.

Lebanon and Israel have been officially at war since the founding of Israel in 1948.

The deal was signed by Qatar’s Minister of Energy, Saad Sherida Al Kaabi. Walid Fayad, his Lebanese counterpart. Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Italian state-owned energy company ENI, and Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of Total Energies. The signing ceremony was attended by Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

“We will be concentrating on block number 9,” Alkabi said, adding that this could be the first step for Qatar Energy to play a larger role in future exploration.

In 2017, Total and ENI each acquired a 40% stake in the block, while Novatek acquired 20%. Under the deal signed on Sunday, Qatar Energy will acquire 5% each from ENI and Total, plus his 20% stake in Novatek, leaving the Arab company with a 30% stake. Total and ENI each own a 35% stake.

Lebanese media reported that exploration of Block No. 9 could begin by the end of November. His Pouyanne of TotalEnergies said: The company said two months ago it would soon begin exploration activities to find gas off the coast of Lebanon.

Cash-strapped Lebanon hopes future gas discoveries will help the small Middle Eastern nation emerge from the worst economic and financial crisis in the country’s modern history.

Since the crisis erupted in October 2019, the Lebanese pound has lost over 90% of its value. Tens of thousands have lost their jobs and three-quarters of his six million population, including one million Syrian refugees, live in poverty.

“We are honored to be in Lebanon with these two companies,” said Descalzi. “We all work together to do what is best for your country.”

Qatar is one of the world’s leading exporters of liquefied natural gas, and its state-owned enterprises operate all of the country’s oil and gas exploration and production, making it one of the world’s wealthiest countries per capita. increase. The small country, which borders Saudi Arabia to the east, shares control with Iran of the world’s largest underwater natural gas field in the Persian Gulf.