Lebanon: First offshore well to be drilled in 2019

Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said Friday that drilling for oil and gas in blocks 4 and 9, which lie in north and south respectively, will begin in 2019.

Abi Khalil said later on Friday that oil companies would begin drilling five offshore wells in each of the two licensed blocks in a bid to find oil and gas reserves in 2019.

The minister’s announcement came a day after Cabinet approved the license for a consortium of three international oil and gas companies to explore oil and gas resources in blocks 4 and 9 off the Lebanese coast. The three companies are France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and Russian Novatek.

“The drilling process will begin in 2019, thus 2018 will be dedicated to making preparations,” Abi Khalil said during a media conference to discuss the next steps after Cabinet’s approval Thursday.

He said the first exploration period for oil will take three years and the second period will be two years but will be renewable to an additional year if needed.

The minister also said that between 55 to 71 percent of drilling revenues will go to the country. Regarding block 9, part of which falls within an area of disputed territory, Abi Khalil said Lebanon will “assert its resource rights” along the length of its maritime territories.

Abi Khalil explained that he had invited the oil companies to negotiate the technical offers under his authority, and that “as a result of negotiations on technical offers, we obtained a commitment to drill five wells in each of blocks 4 and 9.”

The minister said that negotiations with the oil companies had been difficult, but in the end, the contract issued by the Lebanese state to the oil companies was endorsed by Cabinet without any amendments, which he described as a major achievement.