Lebanon’s Gas Exploration Hopes Amid Israel Conflict

by Victor Adetimilehin

Lebanon has launched its first offshore gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea, hoping to find a new source of energy and revenue amid its worst economic crisis in decades. The drilling rig, operated by a consortium of French, Italian and Qatari energy companies, arrived in Lebanon’s Block 9 last week and began drilling on Tuesday.

The exploration became possible after Lebanon and Israel reached a US-mediated agreement last year to settle their long-standing maritime border dispute. The two countries are still technically at war and do not have diplomatic relations, but they agreed to demarcate an area of 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) where they both claim potential gas and oil resources.

Lebanon’s Block 9 lies mostly within its waters, but a small segment extends south of the newly drawn border. The consortium, led by TotalEnergies, has agreed to exploit any cross-border deposits on behalf of Lebanon and pay royalties to Israel, according to Lebanese officials. Lebanon hopes that gas discoveries will help it overcome its severe electricity shortages and reduce its massive public debt, which has soared to more than 170% of GDP. The country has been suffering from a deep financial crisis since 2019, which has caused the local currency to lose more than 98% of its value, eroded the foreign reserves and triggered widespread protests and social unrest.

However, experts warn that gas exploitation will not be a quick fix for Lebanon’s woes, as it will take years before any revenues reach the state coffers. They also caution that corruption and mismanagement could prevent the benefits from reaching the millions of people living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, Lebanon faces another challenge from its southern neighbor, Israel, which has been engaged in a fierce conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza since last week. The violence has killed more than 200 people in Gaza and 10 in Israel, and sparked fears of a wider regional war.

Israel has also been expanding its own gas production in the eastern Mediterranean, where it has several offshore fields. It has signed export deals with Egypt, Jordan and Greece, and is seeking to diversify its markets amid rising tensions with Russia over its gas supplies to Europe. Lebanon and Israel have both accused each other of violating their sovereignty and threatening their security in the disputed waters. Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which is backed by Iran and Syria, has vowed to defend Lebanon’s rights and interests against any Israeli aggression.

Despite the risks and uncertainties, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati expressed optimism about the gas exploration on Tuesday, saying it was “a historic day” for the country. He said he hoped that the drilling would yield positive results that would contribute to Lebanon’s recovery and stability.

Source: Energy News Africa

You may also like

white logo new

Energy News Africa Plus is dedicated to illuminating the vast expanses of Africa’s energy industry.

Editors' Picks

Latest Stories

© 2024 Energy News Africa Plus. All Rights Reserved.