According to cabinet ministers, an offshore drilling rig will begin operations to look for gas in the next few weeks after reaching its destination in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Lebanon.
Following an agreement between the two nations last year over their maritime border, the drilling rig is anticipated to start operations this month in Lebanese waters close to the border with Israel.
Israel’s formation in 1948 resulted in a formal state of war between Lebanon and Israel. Lebanon, a cash-strapped country in the Middle East, is hoping that new gas finds will help it escape the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.
The drilling rig arrived at the site where it is planned to start working on Wednesday morning, according to interim transport minister Ali Hamie’s post on X, the website that replaced Twitter.
Tyre, a port city in the south, is visible from the rig. Walid Fayyad, Lebanon’s energy minister, told reporters in Beirut, “We hope that Lebanon will become an oil state,” adding that the drilling’s results should be known in two to three months.
The Transocean Barents drilling platform is currently about 120 kilometers (75 miles) off the coast of Beirut, according to a statement from TotalEnergies.
The first helicopter that will transport crews to and from the platform is currently at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport.
According to TotalEnergies, “the equipment’s arrival marks an important step in the preparation for the drilling of the exploration well” this month. 2017 saw Lebanon grant licenses to a multinational group that included TotalEnergies of France, ENI of Italy, and Novatek of Russia to advance offshore oil and gas production for two of the Mediterranean’s ten blocks.
Up until the maritime boundary agreement was struck last year, Israel’s neighboring country disputed the bounds of one of the two blocks.
A contract replacing Novatek with the Qatari company was signed in January by Lebanon, ENI, TotalEnergies, and the government-owned oil and gas company Qatar Energy.
According to the agreement, Qatar Energy will acquire 20% of Novatek, along with 5% each from ENI and TotalEnergies, leaving the Arab business with only a 5% interest.
The disputed seas would be divided along a line that crossed the “Qana” natural gas field in the Mediterranean, according to the agreement between Lebanon and Israel that was reached in October with U.S. mediation.
Although Israel would get compensation for gas produced from its side of the line under a separate agreement inked by TotalEnergies and Israel, gas production would be based on the Lebanese side.