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Gas reserves report set to expedite state action.

Summary: A new technical and geological report showing common offshore gas reserves between Lebanon and Israel is set to speed up the government to place the issue on the front burner.

BEIRUT: A new technical and geological report showing common offshore gas reserves between Lebanon and Israel is set to speed up the government to place the issue on the front burner. A source close to the Petroleum Administration disclosed to The Daily Star Thursday that the body submitted "a detailed report about the gas reserve blocks, which Lebanon shares with Israel, to Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian."

The report, according to the source, is a geological interpretation of the 3D seismic survey conducted by international companies in the southern territorial waters. It stresses that there are potential gas reserves in blocs 8 and 9 that are very close to Israeli territorial waters.

The source stressed that the high probability that Lebanon shares gas reserves with Israel should prompt the government to discuss and endorse the two decrees delineating the offshore blocks and laying out a model exploration and production sharing agreement.

"We have conducted 3D seismic survey in most of the blocks in the south. But we may need to have more 3D seismic survey in the remaining parts of bock 8. We are trying to persuade the government to speed up the discussion of the two decrees before Israel starts extracting gas from the Lebanese blocks in the south," the source explained.

The successive governments have failed to pass the two decrees due to the sharp differences between various political groups.

Bassil estimated the potential size of gas in the offshore blocks at more than 96 trillion cubic feet, but experts insist it is too early to talk about the size of gas off the Lebanese coast until oil companies start actual drilling, which will take several years.

The U.S. has tried to mediate an understanding between Lebanon and Israel over the disputed zone.

The disputed zone stretches over an area of around 870 kilometers between Lebanon and Israel.

The Lebanese government has rejected any notion of sharing the gas reserves in this area on the premise that the entire area legitimately belongs to Lebanon.

Lebanon has called on the U.N. to demarcate the zone but Israel has reportedly rejected this idea.

The source expected Salam to call for a meeting of the ministerial committee to review the decrees.

"Once the committee reviews the two decrees, Salam will call for a Cabinet meeting to approve the items," he added.

The source believed that Lebanon will be able to invite international oil companies to take part in the licensing round in six to eight months once the decrees are passed.

He emphasized that most political parties in Lebanon now grasp the importance of passing the two decrees as soon as possible.

But an international oil expert familiar with Lebanon's potential gas reserves argued that the Petroleum Administration made this report to induce the government to proceed with the offshore gas licensing round.

"This report is a mere interpretation of the data collected by the companies that conducted the 3D seismic survey in Lebanon a few years ago," the expert told the paper.

He added that based on data the firms collected, there is 20 to 30 percent chance there is gas in the disputed zone between Lebanon and Israel.

"No one can confirm whether there is gas in the blocks unless the companies carry out actual drilling," the expert explained.

He also expressed serious doubt that international oil companies will take part in any future gas licensing round in Lebanon due to the abundant oil reserves around the world.

"It is unlikely that companies will bid for gas in Lebanon now because there is too much oil and gas in the world. Oil companies do not find the need to explore at the moment," the expert said.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jun 24, 2016
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