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09 July 2012
The growing interest in exploring the Lebanese Basin has been stimulated by recent discoveries of massive gas reserves in neighbouring Mediterranean states. In 2009 Noble Energy discovered off the coast of Haifa the first large natural gas reservoir, known as Tamar, with an estimated quantity of 8 trillion cubic feet (ft3) of gas. A year later, the Leviathan deposit – with a potential of 16 trillion ft3 – was found. The US Geological Survey has estimated a mean of 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and around 122 trillion ft3 of recoverable gas in the Levant Basin, off the coast of Lebanon and neighbouring states.(1) The Levant Basin encompasses approximately 83,000 square kilometres (km2) of the eastern Mediterranean.
These deepwater discoveries are considered to be the most important of the past 10 years and have encouraged Lebanon to act quickly. A bundle of legislation was enacted on petroleum industry activities, which are governed by the Offshore Petroleum Resources Law (132/2010). In 2011 the Law on the Delineation and Declaration of the Maritime Regions of the Republic of Lebanon (163/2011) was issued in order to determine the exclusive economic zone in which petroleum industry activities can take place.
In 2000 the Ministry of Energy and Water began commissioning a number of two-dimensional and three-dimensional surveys, undertaken by several firms, to determine the potential of the geological prospects.
The Norwegian-based Petroleum Geo Services (PGS) acquired, processed and interpreted a first multi-client three-dimensional (MC3D) seismic data set for offshore Lebanon in 2006. About 1,550 km2 of MC3D seismic data was acquired, covering the central part of the Levant Basin. In 2007 the same company conducted a geophysical offshore survey of an area between Cyprus and Lebanon, 660 km2 of which is within Lebanese waters.(2)
In February 2009 PGS acquired, processed and interpreted a MC2D GeoStreamer programme of 5,000 line kilometres (line km),(3) covering attractive leads and giving valuable information about Lebanon's offshore regions.
Between February and March 2011 PGS shot a 3,814-line km MC2D GeoStreamer survey.(4) This is primarily an infill of the previous MC2D data, but also includes strikes and dip lines that cover interesting leads and potential closures. In 2011 PGS acquired a third MC3D seismic survey of 1,395 km2 in Lebanon's southern offshore areas.(5) According to experts, the results indicate a number of good structures.(6)
A resource base assessment report was produced by French oil and gas consulting firm Beicip-Franlab in July 2011. In December 2011 the ministry signed a contract with the firm to conduct an offshore survey that would complement the previous two-dimensional survey in Lebanon. On December 22 2011 an agreement was signed with PGS for new surveys to assist in the detection of Lebanese petroleum resources. Indeed, in 2012 PGS acquired a 2,800 km2 MC3D seismic survey in which several play types have been identified.(7) In early 2012 the ministry signed a contract extension with Spectrum for the licensing of the LEB-02 and EMED-00 multi-client seismic data sets for Lebanon's offshore areas. The Spectrum seismic surveys represent over 5,500km of two-dimensional data covering Lebanese waters.
On March 30 2012 the ministry signed an agreement with Beicip-Franlab for land and sea seismic surveys, declaring it a positive step towards the start of oil exploration in Lebanese waters. The Council of Ministers subsequently approved the agreement by decree.
All of the seismic three-dimensional surveys suggest that Lebanon has significant offshore oil and gas wealth. (8) The Lebanese Basin is considered to have favourable geological prospects and significant potential for hydrocarbon production. Many leading oil and gas companies have shown an interest in these potential deposits - more than 25 international companies have already acquired the survey results.(9)
On March 2012 Beicip-Franlab informed the ministry that the studies showed promising amounts of gas in Lebanese waters. The ministry announced that the results are very encouraging, indicating quantities that are three to five times greater than previously estimated. Moreover, there are new indications that hydrocarbon resources may also be found onshore.
Also, at the Lebanon Petroleum Exploration Forum in July 2012, following a presentation on the petroleum assessment of offshore Lebanon based on the seismic interpretation and the regional geological framework, Beicip-Franlab concluded that offshore Lebanon has many hydrocarbon opportunities: prospective zones were identified in the whole offshore area and in several structural styles.
Lebanon is working on a number of legal and procedural requirements affecting the oil and gas industry. It is on a fast track to develop its own offshore natural resources ahead of the first deepwater tendering round, which is scheduled for later in 2012.
(2) MC3D-LEB2006. See www.pgs.com/en/Data_Library/North_Africa___Middle_East/Offshore-Lebanon/MC3D-2007/.
(3) MC2D LEB2008. See www.pgs.com/en/Data_Library/North_Africa___Middle_East/Offshore-Lebanon/MC2D-2009/.
(4) MC2D-LEB2011. See www.pgs.com/en/Data_Library/North_Africa___Middle_East/Offshore-Lebanon/MC2D-LEB2011/.
(5) MC3D LEB2011. See www.pgs.com/en/Data_Library/North_Africa___Middle_East/Offshore-Lebanon/MC3D-LEB2011/.
(7) MC2D-LEB2012. See www.pgs.com/ja/Data_Library/North_Africa___Middle_East/Offshore-Lebanon/MC3D-LEB20111/.
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