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TotalEnergies Moves Fast to Explore Lebanon Offshore Gas Field

drillship
File image (CellsDeDells / CC BY SA 3.0)

Published Nov 16, 2022 12:34 AM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, Israel signed a deal with TotalEnergies to allow exploration of a gas prospect that straddles the new maritime boundary line with Lebanon. The announcement comes just a few weeks before former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to return to office in Israel - and potentially retract the Israel-Lebanon maritime border agreement, which was signed just last month.

Urged forward by the Lebanese government, TotalEnergies is moving at speed to begin exploration of Lebanon's Block 9, the lease area containing the Qana gas prospect. Qana overlaps a long-contested border area, and the settlement of the maritime boundary was a precondition for the French oil major to proceed with investment. 

The maritime boundary deal, negotiated by outgoing caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, put a longstanding border dispute to rest. The agreed demarcation line hands control of Qana to Lebanon, and Israel will receive dividend payments reflecting the portion of the field that lies in Israeli waters.  

However, during the October election campaign, Netanyahu threatened to "neutralize" Lapid's border agreement if elected. Netanyahu's right-wing coalition won more than enough representation in the Knesset to restore him to the prime minister's office, and he is expected to move swiftly to form a government. When his tenure begins, he will have the opportunity to make good on his campaign promise - potentially upending TotalEnergies' plans at Qana. 

The French oil major is wasting no time: the firm said Tuesday that the preparation for exploration at Qana "starts now" with mobilization of personnel, acquisition of equipment and the chartering of a drill rig. 

“TotalEnergies, as the operator of Block 9, is proud to be associated with the peaceful definition of a maritime border between Israel and Lebanon. By bringing our expertise in offshore exploration, we will respond to the request of both countries to assess the materiality of hydrocarbon resources and production potential in this area," said Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman and CEO of TotalEnergies.