“TotalEnergies will stopped drilling in Block 9 after the Gaza War?
Caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayyad indicated last week that the French company had stopped drilling in Block No. 9, explaining that he was waiting for the drilling report to see if it is convincing.

He stated, “The company had its technical reasons, and I am not sure if this issue is related to what happened in Gaza,” and he urged TotalEnergies to speed up the submission of the report.

Regarding the exploration file in general, minister Fayyad believed that politics has a huge role, and when the war broke out in Gaza, “the group was absent,” referring to “TotalEnergies.”

According to ThisisBeirut.com.lb website, there is still disagreement between TotalEnergies and the Ministry of Energy’s petroleum management committee over the final report on drilling works in Block 9. The French multinational did not deliver the report in question, despite repeated requests from the ministry. However, the cabinet and the Ministry of Energy have, strangely enough, failed to send a reminder request in that regard to the CEO of TotalEnergies, Patrick Pouyanné, although the deadline for submitting the report expired on April 12, 2024.

The said report could be of great benefit for Lebanon, as the figures it contains may encourage companies other than Total to participate in the third tender to operate blocks 8 and 10 of the Lebanese Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Mediterranean. The deadline for receiving the bids is set for July 2.

According to informed sources, Total wishes to keep its monopoly over the oil and gas drilling works in the country, with the support of an influential Lebanese party, which could be the reason behind the French company’s procrastination. The aim would be to keep the report undisclosed and avoid attracting other companies that might present better offers – both in terms of deadlines and financing – for blocks 8 and 10.

The same sources indicate that, as part of its efforts to ensure the success of the third tender, the Ministry of Energy asked the Council of Ministers to authorize the participation of companies specializing in deepwater works, with assets of $1 billion, in the tender. Participation in the bidding is currently granted only to companies with assets of $10 billion.

The Council of Ministers has yet to respond to this request, perhaps because those in favor of maintaining TotalEnergies fear the entry of competing companies, though major multinationals do not want to take part in the tender.

Highlighting the importance of amending the terms for the participation of smaller companies, the sources noted that the Greek company, Energean, which discovered the Karish gas field in Israel had assets worth only a billion dollars at that time, but its capital increased considerably after the discovery.

According to the sources, the issue of offshore oil and gas exploration is influenced by persisting tensions in the region. In their view, significant progress in the process leading to genuine discoveries of gas and oil reserves will not be made until a long-term agreement is reached between Lebanon and Israel, guaranteeing stability and security on the southern border.

Previously, the minister stated the geopolitical headwinds are frustrating Lebanon’s energy plans on a number of fronts; “Due to the regional war that we are all living in at this stage, we have seen a disengagement or, how should I say, slower activity by our [upstream] partners,” the minister told Energy Intelligence on the sidelines of this week’s World Energy Council Congress in Rotterdam.