Lebanon signs exploratory deal with 3 oil firms

Lebanon signed a deal with an international consortium to start exploratory offshore drilling for oil and gas amid tensions with Israel. Beirut hopes that oil and gas will help boost its struggling economy.
The signing ceremony was held in Beirut and was attended by President Michel Aoun and officials from the three oil companies — Italy’s Eni, France’s Total and Russia’s Novatek.
“We have achieved a big dream and Lebanon has entered a new era today,” Aoun said at the ceremony.
The agreement came two months after Lebanon’s government approved the licenses for the international consortium to move forward with offshore oil and gas development. The three companies have bid for two of Lebanon’s 10 offshore blocks, to determine whether oil and gas reserves exist.
Lebanon’s Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said the country will start exploratory offshore drilling for oil and gas next year.
He added that the oil companies declared that there is no reason “that they should not speed the process and they should start right away.”
Stephane Michel, president of Total Middle East and North Africa, said there will be no delay in drilling. He added that they will be working 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of the border in block 9.
Chairman of the board of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration Walid Nasr said it will take five to six years for Lebanon to become an oil producing country “but the important thing is to start. Everything has a starting point and today was the starting point.”