Osama Habib| The Daily Star

BEIRUT: The first airborne oil and gas surveillance operation over parts of Lebanon began Friday in another bid by the authorities to assess the quantities of oil and gas present in the country.

The U.S. Company NEOS Geo Solutions, which signed a contract with the ministry of energy in January, flew one of its planes equipped with sensors over the Bekaa Valley in clear weather.

“We are happy to start the launch of our project here in Lebanon in collaboration with our local partner Petroserv and with the help of Lebanese army, air force and the Petroleum Administration,” Amanda Jane, NEOS Geo Solutions’ project manager for Lebanon, told The Daily Star.

“Today we commenced the survey with the first of two aircrafts. These conduct hyperspectral survey data acquisition and will survey much of the north of Lebanon,” she said.

The aircraft will also survey the entire coast.

Lebanon has already completed a 3-D seismic survey off the Lebanese coast to determine, at least tentatively, the quantities of gas and oil off its coast.

The initial results for the 3-D survey were very encouraging, according to the British-based company Spectrum, which conducted the operation over 3,000 square meters off the southern Lebanese coast.

Former Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil claimed earlier that there was 50 percent chance that Lebanon had 96 trillion cubic feet of gas in a specific area off its coast.

But experts and international oil companies say that it will only be possible to establish the actual quantity of offshore gas when the exploration takes place off Lebanon’s coast, and that all the projections before then are, to an extent, guesswork.

Energy and Water Minister Arthur Nazarian announced in August that the deadline to submit bids for the first licensing round had been extended from Aug. 14 to a maximum of six months after the date of the adoption of decrees related to block delineation, the tender protocol and the model exploration and production agreement.

The decision to delay the licensing for the fifth time has clearly frustrated many international oil companies that prequalified in 2013.

The government has yet to approve two crucial decrees, which set the number of blocks for licensing and set the mechanism for revenue sharing.

Jane explained that the airborne survey would continue for 60 days, depending on the weather conditions and other factors.

“We anticipate that the projects will last around 60 days, assuming that the weather conditions are good. Furthermore, we are also taking into consideration the geopolitical conditions in the country and we have to consider certain security constraints,” she said.

Jane said the aircraft would not come near the Lebanese-Syrian border, at the request of the Lebanese Army and Defense Ministry.

“Ultimately, we would like to cover the entire country. At this time we will cover an area of over 6,000 [square] kilometers out of the 10,452 [square] kilometers, which is the size of Lebanon,” she said.

Once the survey is completed, the company will send all the acquired data to the United States, where it will be analyzed and then sent to the Lebanese Energy Ministry and the Petroleum Administration.

NEOS will be using two separate aircraft – each outfitted with highly sophisticated sensors – to collect information on the earth’s surface and subsurface.

Provided that weather conditions are good, the planes will fly over Lebanese territory from 9:30 a.m. until 2:20 p.m. each day.

Jane said that the data might be released in six months once the survey was completed and analyzed in the United States, adding that airborne surveys were much easier than 3-D seismic surveys and 2-D onshore surveys.

She added that the multinational oil companies would also be able to access data acquired from Lebanon.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 04, 2014, on page 4.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Business/Local/2014/Oct-04/272931-airborne-operations-to-survey-for-gas-and-oil.ashx#ixzz3FOY6ASp5