Lebanon defies Israel and agrees off-shore gas drilling contracts

Lebanon defies Israel and agrees off-shore gas drilling contracts
Lebanon has agreed to a contract granting gas exploration rights to a drilling consortium, despite Israeli claims to the waters.
2 min read
10 February, 2018
Lebanon signed the first contract that will jump start gas and oil exploration off its coast, despite Israeli claims to the territorial waters.

The deal sees a consortium of energy giants - Total, ENI and Novatek - given rights to tap into potential oil and gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.

Lebanon has ignored Israeli claims that exploration in these contested waters would be a "provocative" act, opening up offers to exploration of blocs.

The first of these deals has now been agreed with President Michel Aoun saying at the signing ceremony that the prospect of rich energy reserves has opened a new chapter for Lebanon.

"[Lebanon has] entered a new chapter in its history and is now a member of energy-producing countries," Aoun said.

Lebanon has followed neighbouring Israel and Cyprus who struck on major gas and oil finds off its coast.

In December, Lebanon approved a bid on blocks 4 and 9 of the ten predefined by Lebanon and the five that were the subject of the tender. Israel claims one of two areas - block 9.

Exploration will begin in 2019 and the energy giants are relishing the opportunity despite the territorial dispute.

Total welcomed the deal, saying it stipulates that drilling will take place in "at least one well per block in the first three years" and that the "consortium's priority will be to drill a first exploration well on Block 4" next year.

"As for block 9, Total and its partners are fully aware of the Israeli-Lebanese border dispute in the southern part of the block that covers only a very limited area (less than eight percent of the block's surface).

"Given that, the main prospects are located more than 25 km (15.5 miles) from the disputed area, the consortium confirms that the exploration well on block 9 will have no interference at all with any fields or prospects located south of the border area."

The situation has led to worsening relations between the two countries. A war-of-words was sparked by Israeli claims to the waters, which Beirut believes is an attempt by Tel Aviv to exploit its possible new-found wealth.

The construction by Israel of a border wall on territory disputed by Lebanon has also led to angry reactions from Beirut.