Energy minister: Lebanon has over 30 trillion cubic feet offshore gas

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Offshore seismic surveys suggest Lebanon has at least 30 trillion cubic feet in just a small fraction of its Mediterranean waters, Energy Minister Gebran Bassil said.

Lebanon has selected 46 international oil companies to bid to explore for gas off its coast, where survey ships have been assessing prospects after discoveries in waters off neighboring Israel and Cyprus.

“The numbers are likely to increase ... but the latest is 30trillion cubic feet in only 10 percent of Lebanon’s waters,” Bassil told Reuters on board a vessel carrying journalist to one of the survey ships.

He said nearly three quarters of more than 22,000 square km of sea waters had been surveyed, but did not give a figure for the overall potential reserves.

“We’re talking about big commercial quantities,” he said.

Neil Hodgson of survey firm Spectrum said he believed one southern area of around 3,000 square km might hold between 17and 50 trillion cubic feet of gas, while total deep-water reserves could be up to 80 trillion cubic feet.

“In the northern area, if we find the same sort of prospectively, we should see another 20 or 30 trillion cubic feet of gas,” he told Reuters.

“So in total, the resources should be in the order of 40 to80 trillion cubic feet of gas offshore Lebanon in that deep-water area.”

Bassil said the deadline for companies to submit bids for exploration in the 10 offshore blocs was in October and first contracts should be signed in February.

The minister, acting in a caretaker capacity since the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati in late March, has sought to play down concerns that the political deadlock preventing formation of a new cabinet will delay any gas deals.

Any gas exploration contracts would need cabinet endorsement, but Prime Minister designate Tammam Salam has yet to form his government.

“This will need to be done in February 2014 and I don’t think Lebanon will remain without a government (for) all that time,” Bassil said.

Lebanon selected 46 companies last month to bid for gas exploration, 12 of them as operators and 34 as non-operators.