TotalEnergies, Eni ready to drill after landmark Israel-Lebanon maritime deal
TotalEnergies and its partner Eni have agreed to implement a deal reached between Israeli and Lebanon in October that settled their long-running dispute over maritime borders and rights, paving the way for drilling to start at Block 9.
"Following the signature of this framework agreement, the block 9 partners will initiate the exploration of an already identified prospect which might extend both in Block 9 and into Israel waters south of the recently established maritime border line," TotalEnergies said in a statement. "Preparation of exploration activities starts now with the mobilisation of the teams, the purchase of required equipment and the procurement of a drilling rig."
TotalEnergies operates the block with a 60% interest, while Eni has 40%.
The landmark agreement reached between Israel and Lebanon last month has spurred hopes of further gas exploration in the east Mediterranean, which already hosts several major gas fields including Leviathan, off the coast of Israel. Under the deal, Lebanon retains rights to most of the Qana gas prospect in Block 9, which could hold as much as 15 trillion ft3 in a best-case scenario, although further exploration is needed to assess its value.
In return, Lebanon has ceded any rights to the 1.4-trillion ft3 Karish gas field, where Energean launched gas flow tests last month.
TotalEnergies and Eni were awarded drilling rights to Block 9 in 2018, along with Russia's Novatek, but that company withdrew from the project earlier this year.
The maritime agreement should bolster efforts by both Israel and Lebanon to attract more investors to explore their offshore areas for gas. The Lebanese Petroleum Administration has given bidders until December 15 to apply for exploration rights for new blocks in the country's second bidding round, while Israel in July announced plans to launch a fourth offshore licensing round, although the timeframe is yet to be determined.
The east Mediterranean could serve as a base for gas supplies to Europe, which is scrambling to find alternatives to Russian gas. One project, considered dead early this year after the US withdrew its support, is the EastMed pipeline, that would bring Israeli and potentially Cypriot gas to Greece. But the EU is yet to pledge strong support for the project, and such support was vital for previous gas import infrastructure, such as the Southern Gas Corridor.