Lebanon – The current estimate, under a probability of 50 percent, for almost 45 percent of Lebanese waters has reached 95.9 trillion cubic feet of gas and 865 million barrels of oil — managed to complete a licensing round that had been interrupted in 2013.Lebanon is finally stepping into the exploration phase. The Council of Ministers approved the awarding of exploration and productions licenses on December 14 to a consortium made up of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek. A Total, Eni and Novatek consortium has been signed first offshore exclusive Petroleum licenses for exploration and production in blocks 4 and 9
2018 promises significant developments for both countries, provided the region can avoid any more political turmoil than what is already considered normal.
Nevertheless, Cyprus is looking at as many as four new wells and perhaps a deal to develop its Aphrodite gas field for export to Egypt, while Lebanon awarded 2 blocks for initial exploration.
After two disappointing dry holes in Cyprus Block 9 drilled by Eni in 2014/15 and the Italian firm’s subsequent decision to suspend its drilling program to re-evaluate its seismic model, the island was looking forward to the resumption of offshore drilling this year by Total.
The well drilled in Block 11 — only the fifth drilled in the Cyprus offshore — did discover gas but failed to find commercial quantities.
This was all the more disappointing because drilling took place just a few miles from where Eni in August 2015 made the 30 Tcf Zohr discovery in Egypt’s Shorouk Block.
When gas started flowing from the Zohr field last month it was an important step in Egypt’s drive for Energy independence and signified that the eastern Mediterranean was finally establishing itself as a force in gas production.
Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Eni, the Italian group leading the $12 billion project, said Zohr would “completely transform Egypt’s Energy landscape, allowing it to become self-sufficient and turn from an importer of gas into a future exporter.”
By contrast, Zohr is no disappointment to Egypt. The field came on-stream December 20, with initial production of 1 Bcf/d (28 million cu m/d), which will rise to 2.7 Bcf/d (76million cu m/d) by 2019.
Zohr and other new offshore fields promise to meet Egypt’s future Energy demand and could enable the restart of Egyptian exports.
This could complicate Noble Energy’s current talks with Cairo to route Aphrodite and Leviathan gas to Idku or Damietta for the sake of monetizing their own gas discoveries.
The Block 11 prospect looked so good that Eni farmed into it for a 50% share, anticipating an extension of the Egyptian giant.
Nevertheless, Total continues to evaluate results at the Onisiforos West-1 well in consideration of a wider search in the block.
Undeterred, an Eni/Total partnership spuded a new well on or after 31st of December in Block 6, the Calypso-1, where Eni is operator.
Eni will then immediately proceed with the Cuttlefish-1 well in Block 3, which was awarded to Eni and South Korea’s Kogas in a 80/20 partnership in 2013.
Eni is now the key investor in the Cyprus offshore, with stakes in Blocks 2, 3 and 9 awarded in 2013, Blocks 6 and 8 awarded in April 2017, and the farm-in to Block 11 earlier this year.
An Eni well in Block 8 is expected during 2018 and two are planned in Block 10 by the ExxonMobil/QPI partnership.
In November, during a visit to Nicosia by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt and Cyprus agreed to start talks on the construction of a subsea pipeline to Egypt that would transport gas from the 4.5 Tcf Aphrodite field to the currently near-idle LNG plants on Egypt’s Nile Delta coast.
The US’ Noble Energy is operator of Aphrodite and partnered with Israel’s Delek Group and Shell, which is a major stakeholder in Egypt’s Idku LNG. The Damietta facility is another option.
After several years of discussion, it is hoped that a commercial agreement can be reached with one or both of them that will allow the stranded gas to make it to international, and particularly European, markets.
Egypt has also endorsed the proposed subsea EastMed Pipeline, which would carry Cypriot and Israeli gas some 2,000 km to Crete, mainland Greece and Italy.
A final investment decision is planned for 2020 that would see the pipeline operational in 2025 with a capacity of up to 16 Bcm/year.
But Lebanon’s politics remain volatile as it now finds itself in the midst of the region-wide dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and this could very well affect its exploration program.