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Lebanon Starts Energy Drilling, Hoping to Quench Thirst for Oil, Gas

Sunday 27 August 2023
Lebanon Starts Energy Drilling, Hoping to Quench Thirst for Oil, Gas

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Karish Gas Facilities Will Be Destroyed if Tel Aviv Reneged on Deal Commitment: Expert

Alwaght- After over a decade of tensions between the Israeli regime and Lebanon over a shared gas field, the Lebanese are optimistically taking steps to use their national energy resources. 

After repeated visits to Beirut and Tel Aviv of the US envoy to mediate discussions on the maritime border demarcation deal which the Lebanese found as a waste of time and also after recent French interference that is aimed at fishing in troubled waters, the Lebanese officials have decided that there is no time for further delay and they should produce energy from their fields. 

In this connection, Lebanon's Transportation Minister Ali Hamiyeh on Wednesday announced that with the arrival of the Transocean Barents oil and gas exploration ship, the drilling operation started in Block 9 in the territorial waters as the country hopes to move to a bright future using its own energy resources. 

Also, Lebanon's Energy Minister Walid Fayad maintained that following the delineation of maritime boundaries, this country protected its right to enjoy natural resources, and preparations to start drilling in Block 9 have been completed.

Hoping that Lebanon will become an oil exporter, Fayad added that this event will beam a ray of hope to all the Lebanese. Total is hopeful about existence of an oilfield in the Qana field, and they are just steps away from exploration of this oilfield. He went on that in the next two or three months, the result of the drilling in the Block 9 will come out. 

The Lebanese minister stressed that soon Lebanon will become part of the world and region's oil and gas map, and this will considerably affect the economic future of Lebanon. 

“Lebanon can meet its energy needs using its own resources and pay off part of its debts,” he hoped. 

France’s Total, along with Italy’s Eni and Qatar’s state energy company, is responsible for Lebanon's oil and gas drilling. 

Drilling in Block 9 has started after 10 months since the signing of the agreement on drawing maritime borders between Lebanon and the Israeli regime with the US mediation. Beirut and Tel Aviv had been negotiating indirectly for several years to draw their borders in a maritime gas and oil-rich area of 860 square kilometers in Eastern Mediterranean. 

Diplomatic sources told the Lebanese Ad-Diyar newspaper that the optimism about existence of vast sources of energy in Block 9 are driven by results of geological and geophysical surveys that show Qana field, especially Blocks 8 and 9, hosts large amounts of oil and gas. They further said that they hope these estimates are correct and the exploration costs do not outweigh the potential profits. 

Along with the start of operation, Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Beri have boarded a helicopter belonging to Total and flew over the drilling platform in the southern waters for updates on the drilling. 

The Lebanese eyes on Karish resources to settle economic crisis 

Lebanon has been struggling with massive economic and political crises since 2019, and 80 percent of its people are in dire straits economically. That is why people and officials are hopeful that with production of oil and gas in Karish field, they can solve part of the economic problems. 

So far, exact data from the oil and gas reserves of the Karish field in the Mediterranean have not been published, but the US Geological Survey (USGS) estimated in 2010 that the Leviathan energy basin could hold 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of gas. This means that the amount of gas in the depths of the Mediterranean can meet the gas consumption of the entire European Union for 76 years. 

Another survey in 2012 by the British Spectrum company suggested that the recoverable gas resources of Lebanon are around 25.4 trillion cubic meters, but Lebanese officials have higher estimates. 

An oil consulting company based in Texas estimates that the field has 61 million barrels of gas oil, whose commercial value is higher than gas. 

To be precise, Karish gas field is located in Block 8, only 7 kilometers away from Block 9 that is in the Lebanese territorial waters. Lebanese officials have repeatedly argued that according to the UN-drawn borders, most of these gas reserves are located in Lebanon's waters, but the Israelis are opposed to their argument. 

Diana Casey, a member of LOGI board of consultants, says that Lebanon's profit from the border deal with Israel and gas exploration is around $6 billion. Given the catastrophic economic situation of Lebanon, even this small amount in the current conditions can inject new blood into Lebanon's economic arteries. 

Karish gas field is located 4 kilometers from the Lebanon-Israeli border and near Block 8 and 100 kilometers from the Israeli coasts, and its area is 150 square kilometers. 

The wealth of Karish is mainly concentrated in its northern part, where the Israelis seek to seize. About 1.14 trillion square feet of gas and 34 million barrels of gas oil are in this field. 

Qana field, which is located in Lebanon's economic zone, contains huge reserves eyed by the Israelis. Experts suggest that the amount of oil and gas that can be produced in this energy field is several folds more than that of Karish. 

The total gas and oil-rich area of Lebanon's territorial waters is 22,000 square kilometers, divided into 10 blocks. The area disputed with the Israeli regime is 854 square kilometers and hosts Blocks 8 and 9. Lebanon is currently drilling in Block 9 to meet part of its energy needs. 

The Mediterranean gas and oil resources of Lebanon can help settle the political crisis in addition to the economic one. Experts suggest that political parties may back down from their demands for the sake of national interests and end the current predicament, especially that Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah have made progress in their dialogue over presidential post, increasing the chance of Suleiman Frangieh, of Marada Movement, to take the currently empty post of president. 

Lebanon owes gas production to Hezbollah power, arms 

Lebanon is for the first time officially drilling its gas field for production in the Mediterranean. But this success was not made easily. Actually, the warnings of Hezbollah and its Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah over the past year eventually forced the Israelis to retreat and pave the way for the Lebanese to use their gas resources. 

Nasrallah has repeatedly warned that if any obstacle is put ahead of the process of exploration and drilling of Lebanon, the Israeli regime will not be able to drill and use its gas in the field either, and the turning point of these threats was the flying of the Hassan drones over the Israeli facilities in Karish gas field in early July 2022. The move forced Tel Aviv to take the threats seriously and back down from its excesses in the maritime border negotiations. 

After this, Hezbollah held several war games and showed off its new achievements, warning Tel Aviv that it will not allow the Israeli regime to produce gas at Karish until Lebanon starts exploration operations. 

Sheikh Ali Da'amosh, the deputy head of Hezbollah Executive Council, referring to entry of the drilling ship into the Block 9, said: “This is an achievement that would not have been made without the resistance equations and cooperation and coordination between the government and the Lebanese resistance. Eventually, it was the resistance equations that forced the enemy to recognize Lebanon's oil rights and draw the borders.” 

If large amounts of oil and gas are explored in Lebanon energy fields, due to their significance, Hezbollah will guarantee the security of the oil and gas platforms and facilities. After all, the West and Israeli regime are seeking these precious resources and do not want Lebanon, and especially Hezbollah, to hold such wealth. 

Amid start of the gas drilling in Lebanon, energy crisis deteriorates in Europe day by day, and the demand for energy sources of the world increases. It is likely that Tel Aviv will start gas production at Karish to meet part of this demand. If the Israelis obstruct the Lebanese exploration operation, tensions will erupt again and this will never be in the Israeli interests. 

At present, Total and Eni are set to survey oil and gas reserves of Block 9. If there are large reserves, the US and France may decide to put the skids under Lebanon's extraction process. 

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Lebanon Gas Drilling Hezbollah Israel Karish

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