Lebanon’s seabed is rich with hydrocarbon sediment

Mar 13, 2004 01:00 AM

by Tarek El Zein

The Energy and Water Ministry of Lebanon has set in motion the process to transform the oil and gas and electricity sectors from ones plagued by inefficiency and outdated laws to efficient and modern ones abiding by international standards.
The ministry’s mission is threefold:
-- to create an internationally recognized and transparent legal framework for oil and gas exploration and exploitation,
-- to attract as many foreign oil companies interested in the prospects of drilling for fuels offshore Lebanon’s coast and, finally,
-- to convert Electricite du Liban (EdL) into a profitable company by providing its power stations with cheap fuels such as natural gas.

"Lebanon is aiming for a fair, transparent and efficient energy regulator to create a favorable environment and to attract international gas firms," Energy and Water Minister Ayoub Humayed said at Lebanon’s first oil and gas conference.
Present at the conference were major oil and gas companies (TGS-Nopec, Suez/Tractebel, Schlumberger), international law firms (Denton Wilde and Baker Botts), and geologists (ECL, AT Energy and Spectrum), which made the event truly international.

Spectrum and TGS-Nopec carried out a 2D seismic study of Lebanon’s seabed, ECL and AT Energy conducted geological assessments of the offshore area, Suez/Tractebel advised the ministry on the Syrian-Lebanese natural gas transmission project and the LNG terminal, Baker Botts will work on the upstream legal guidelines and Denton Wilde will work on downstream legal guidelines.
According to Faouzi Bensarsa, member of the European Commission’s General Directorate for Energy, the first seismic assessments of Lebanon’s seabed "have given out very positive signals, which will later on be confirmed by drilling."

British firm Spectrum made the discovery last January that Lebanon could become an oil or gas producing country when it found hydrocarbon sediments lying deep under the country’s 2,000 sq km seabed. Such a finding could be the turning point for the entire economy and its energy sector. However, no prediction can be made until an oil company begins drilling wells, since, in the past, similar findings have yielded little in the way of profitable results.
"With the level of seismic data we have amassed, we can figure out the areas with the most potential and the range of hydrocarbon volumes that could be found there, but nothing can be proven until an oil company drills a well. However, the seismic indicators we have seen are extremely good and promising," said Alan Taylor, the director of British consulting firm AT Energy, in December.

"What the ministry is doing with today’s conference is sending out signals that it will create a legal framework following international and European Union laws and standards. There is no way one can attract major oil and gas companies if the legal framework is not transparent," said Bensarsa.
Representatives of geological firms TGS-Nopec and ECL told that the prospects of finding oil or gas, or even both, in Lebanon’s seabed are very positive.
"Of course events have taken place when nothing was found, but my judgment is that fuels will be found," said chief geologist of ECL Steve Lawrence.

In parallel, the ministry is also getting ready to allow EdL’s Beddawi natural gas power station, in the North, to burn on natural gas for the first time in June 2004.
"This step will be the most important step for Lebanon since it will reduce the cost of generating electricity, which will benefit the overall economy and also the consumers," said Bensarsa.
Supply of natural gas will become a possibility through the GASYLE pipeline that will link Syria to Beddawi at first, and then Beddawi to Zahrani, in the South. The transmission system will supply gas to the power plants located along the coast of Lebanon as well as to industries, commercial and residential consumers.

Source: The Daily Star
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