Qatar Partners for Joint Exploration in Lebanese Gas Blocks: A Ray of Hope?

 January 29, 2023

Lebanon, Qatar Energy, Eni, TotalEnergies sign an agreement in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023

Batoul Wehbe

Lebanon witnessed on Sunday the signing ceremony of ‘The Revised Appendices to the Exploration and Production Agreements for Blocks 4 and 9’, an agreement for Qatar Energy Company to join a consortium that will search for gas in the Mediterranean Sea off Lebanon’s coast.

As soon as the good news of the gas agreement circulated this afternoon, the exchange rate of the dollar recorded a decline on the Lebanese black market to below than 57,000 Lebanese Lira, giving hope to perpetually overwhelmed people.

The Lebanese government, together with two leading international oil companies, entered into an agreement with the state-owned Qatar Energy Company, resulting in the latter becoming a partner in the consortium exploring the oil and gas potential of Blocks 4 and 9. This marks a significant milestone in the quest for oil and gas in Lebanon’s maritime domain.

“Today marks a historic event in Lebanon as we sign the amended addendums to the exploration and production agreements in blocks 4 and 9, in the presence of the CEO of Qatar Energy Company, and with the support and attendance of the Prime Minister’s Office of Business Administration Nijib Mikati in the governmental palace,” the Ministry of Energy stated.

The Minister of Energy, Dr. Waleed Fayyad, signed on behalf of Lebanon, while the State Minister of Energy from Qatar, the CEO of Qatar Energy Company, Engineer Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, signed on behalf of Qatar, the CEO of Total Group, Patrick Pouyanné, signed on behalf of the French company, and the CEO of Eni, Claudio Descalzi, signed on behalf of the Italian company, in the presence of ambassadors from Qatar, France, and Italy.

PM Miktai, Walid Fayyad, Al-Kaabi

“This step comes after Qatar Energy Company became a partner in the consortium of petroleum companies with the rights to explore and produce in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters, as an undeveloped oil owner, joining Total E&P from France and Eni from Italy,” the Lebanese Ministry added.

The ownership share in each of the consortium’s companies will be divided among the four partners, and they will work together to explore and produce oil and gas in these two blocks as follows:

“ Total Energies: 35%
    Eni: 35%
   Qatar Energy: 30% 

This new partnership coincides with the operator’s ongoing efforts to carry out exploration and drilling activities in block 9 this year. Lebanon’s share ranges from 54% to 63% after deducting operating and capital expenses if a discovery is made.

“We are thrilled to welcome Qatar Energy to our exploration efforts in Lebanon. The recent determination of the country’s maritime boundary with Israel has generated a new opportunity for the exploration of its hydrocarbon resources. Total Energies and our partners are fully committed to drilling an exploration well in Block 9 as soon as possible in 2023, and our teams are ready to commence these operations,” stated Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman and CEO of Total Energies.

This partnership further strengthens the collaboration between Total Energies and Qatar Energy in exploration activities, bringing the number of countries where the companies have partnerships to nine.

“Our concentration will be on block number nine,” al-Kaabi, Qatar’s Energy Minister, said, adding that this could be a first step for Qatar Energy to play a bigger role in future explorations.

“It is an honor to be in Lebanon with these two companies,” said Descalzi, the CEO of Italy’s state-run energy company, ENI, said in turn. “We will work all together to give the best to your country.”

During the press conference held after the signing ceremony, Lebanese Energy Minister Fayyad hailed the deal that “marks the beginning of a new chapter that reinforces Lebanon’s standing as a major player in the regional oil industry.”

“This indicates the continuation of confidence in Lebanon despite all the ordeals and crises that it is going through, and the hopes pinned on making commercial discoveries in the exclusive Lebanese economic zone,” Fayyad pointed out.

For his part, PM Mikati affirmed that the initiation of exploration and petroleum activities in Lebanon’s waters holds great potential to generate short- and medium-term benefits. “This marks the initiation of a new stage in the exploration and petroleum operations in Lebanese waters, poised to have a beneficial influence, both in the short and intermediate term, on the creation of opportunities for Lebanese companies involved in the petroleum services sector and providing employment prospects for Lebanese youth, particularly those with technical expertise,” Mikati said.

“This partnership between Qatar Energy and its acquisition of a 30% stake in exploration and production agreements for Blocks 4 and 9 is a significant and unparalleled event in the oil exploration and production sector in Lebanon’s maritime waters, given Qatar Energy’s reputation and expertise in the gas industry globally,” he noted.

The US Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, Amos Hochstein, who mediated the Israeli-Lebanese maritime border negotiations, has lauded the agreement between Lebanon, Qatar Energy, TotalEnergies and ENI. In a tweet, Hochstein exclaimed, “Congratulations to Lebanon on Qatar Energy joining as an investor with ENI and TotalEnergies. This is a welcome addition of new investment in the Lebanese energy sector and further evidence of progress from the maritime agreement.”

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

The Lebanese people pin hopes on this landmark agreement that would save its economy from deteriorating to an untenable level.

The Lebanese economy is in a state of profound distress, with the Lebanese pound experiencing a severe devaluation of nearly 90% since the onset of the economic crisis in May 2019. The latest reports indicate the exchange rate of the Lebanese pound reached a record low of over 60,000 to the dollar on Friday.

In addition to this, food prices have skyrocketed nearly tenfold, leading to high levels of unemployment and putting three-quarters of the population into poverty.

The absence of a president has been a persistent issue in the country since the expiration of Michel Aoun’s presidential term on October 31st. Despite the Parliament convening on 11 occasions, efforts to elect a new president have been unsuccessful.

In the same context, MP Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, stated in a press conference that the country is facing the consequences of a breakdown, including a surging dollar, increasing poverty, sky-high gasoline prices, disarray in the pharmaceutical market, a threatened education sector, lack of administration, and employees and transactions being ignored. Additionally, he mentioned that judges are airing their grievances and acting based on political agendas.

MP Bassil urged for a unified approach and prompt discussions among all parties, either in a bilateral or collective manner, to come to an agreement on a streamlined and swift action plan. He also called for reaching consensus on a list of potential candidates for the presidential election, or if not possible, to vote based on an agreed upon list.

“We are ready to conclude a new understanding with Hezbollah and with any political component on building the state in partnership, provided it is implemented,” Bassil said.

Bou Saab in the DC

All the way to the United States, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Elias Bou Saab, has departed for Washington on an official visit. During the trip, he will engage in talks with US administration officials, members of the Senate and Congress, as well as high-level representatives of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Bou Saab will also participate in joint meetings alongside Representatives Neamat Freim, Yassin Yassin, and Mark Daou.

It is foreseen that on the first day of his visit, Bou Saab will commence with a meeting and dinner facilitated by Wael Hashem, Chargé d’Affaires at the Lebanese Embassy. The US Special Presidential Coordinator, Amos Hochstein, will also be in attendance, giving a joint speech with Bou Saab regarding the aftermath of the maritime border demarcation and its effect on Lebanon. The dinner will be attended by prominent Lebanese parliamentarians, members of the Senate and Congress, and high-level American officials.

Source: Al-Manar English Website

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