Qatar joins consortium to explore Lebanon's offshore gas
Qatar on Sunday announced it had entered a consortium to explore Lebanese offshore gas in waters bordering Israel, following a historic border deal last year between the two foes.
The agreement greenlights Lebanon's exploration of its southern Qana reservoir in Block 9 following the signing of the landmark deal last October demarcating its maritime borders with long-time enemy Israel.
QatarEnergy acquires a 30% interest in two offshore exploration blocks in Lebanon#QatarEnergy #YourEnergyTransitionPartner #Qatar pic.twitter.com/9Ck0yjRETE— QatarEnergy (@qatarenergy) January 29, 2023
Sunday's deal will see the gas-rich Gulf country's state-run QatarEnergy receive a minority 30 percent stake in two blocks of Lebanon's exclusive economic zone, according to Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
French company TotalEnergies and Italy's Eni will both retain 35 percent shares in the blocks after Russia's Novatek relinquished its minority stake in 2022.
Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayad and his Qatari counterpart Saad al-Kaabi, who is also QatarEnergy's chief executive, signed the deal Sunday, along with the Eni and TotalEnergies chiefs.
Under a United States-brokered accord, Lebanon and Israel, which are officially still at war, delimited their maritime borders in October 2022.
The accord paved the way for Lebanon to begin exploration in the Qana reservoir - which is partly located inside Israel's territorial waters - in return for compensation payments.
"Qatar's entry into the consortium is above all politically significant," according to energy consultant Naji Abi Aad.
He told AFP that Doha's involvement "brings a political guarantee" as Lebanon grapples with deep economic, political and social crises.
But analysts agree it will take several years for Beirut to begin exploiting the Qana field, should a commercially viable discovery be made.
"You need an infrastructure to export the gas, which currently does not exist," explained Abi Aad, adding that construction of a coastal pipeline would be required for any domestic use of the energy reserves.
Israel already delivers gas to its neighbours Egypt and Jordan, and in June signed a deal to liquefy gas using Egyptian infrastructure with a view to delivering it to Europe via shipments.