Report: Petroleum Authority Says Lebanon’s Southern Oil Fields are ‘Promising’

Lebanon’s oil exploration file is back to the forefront after it was shadowed by the overall paralysis governing the country, at a time when Israel is about to start its oil production which threatens to syphon off Lebanon’s oil and gas where the fields overlap.

Lebanon’s petroleum authority has finally obtained “seismic” surveys conducted by one of the foreign companies tasked since 2002 for that purpose. The surveys show that the oil reservoirs in the southern region are promising especially blocs 8 and 9, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday.

The new information is based on surveys obtained by the six-member petroleum authority which has analyzed the data and submitted it to Speaker Nabih Berri, PM Tammam Salam and Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian, sources of the authority told the daily.

They pointed out that the report revealed new information which proves the presence of oil in the sea, mainly in bloc 8, and that the authority had no information about it before that.

The findings have renewed the authority’s concerns that Israel would take advantage of this wealth, particularly where the oil and gas fields overlap, in light of the political inaction in dealing with this file.

It voiced calls to speed up the exploration and extraction to cut the road short on Israel’s hopes.

Lebanon and Israel are bickering over a zone that consists of about 854 square kilometers and suspected energy reserves that could generate billions of dollars.

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

In March 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated a mean of 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a mean of 34.5 trillion cubic meters of recoverable gas in the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean, which includes the territorial waters of Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Cyprus.

In August 2014, the government postponed for the fifth time the first round of licensing for gas exploration over a political dispute.

The disagreements were over the designation of blocks open for bidding and the terms of a draft exploration agreement.

Lebanese officials have continuously warned that Israel’s exploration of new offshore gas fields near Lebanese territorial waters means the Jewish state is syphoning some of Lebanon’s crude oil.

Beirut argues that a maritime map it submitted to the U.N. is in line with an armistice accord drawn up in 1949, an agreement which is not contested by Israel.