New fuel player in hot spot

New fuel player in hot spot

BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
New fuel player in hot spot

Israel claims a vast gas finding in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea with its cortractor Noble Energy.

Lebanon is technically ready to start drilling for offshore natural gas reserves, its energy minister has said, after exploration in around half the country’s exclusive economic zone was completed.

Lebanon has been slow to exploit its maritime resources compared with other eastern Mediterranean countries. Israel, Greek Cyprus and Turkey are all much more advanced in drilling for oil and gas.

 “Lebanon has now reached the stage where it can start drilling for gas,” Gebran Bassil told journalists on a tour to an area in the south of the country where reserves are disputed with Israel and Greek Cyprus.

The country “is technically ready to start issuing permits to enable extraction,” he said.

Two companies working with the Lebanese authorities that specialize in three-dimensional exploration have already surveyed around half the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), said Bassil.

They found a large number of gas reservoirs all along the coast.

The area off the southern coast alone contains 340 billion cubic meters of natural gas, which if extracted “could be enough to cover Lebanon’s electricity production needs for 99 years,” the minister said.

The country suffers systematic power cuts, because of corruption and damage to old plants caused by the 1975-1990 civil war.

Map conflicts with Israel

Gas and oil could also help pay off some of its accumulated debt.

In August 2011, parliament passed a law setting the country’s maritime boundary and EEZ, in which it has special rights to explore and exploit natural resources.

The country has submitted to the United Nations a maritime map that conflicts significantly with one proposed by Israel.

The disputed zone consists of about 854 square kilometers, and suspected energy reserves there could generate billions of dollars.

Asked whether Israel, which has started exploring an area near the Lebanese border, might try and hinder any exploration by Lebanon, Bassil said it was unlikely.