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Lebanon’s energy promise could be regional game changer

If handled correctly and the status quo between Hezbollah and Israel is maintained, Lebanon’s oil and gas exploration process will lead to the production of energy in 2021-22.

Three interconnected developments that occurred in December 2017 will have a lasting impact on Lebanon. The Lebanese government made two long overdue decisions: launching the energy exploration process and setting the parliamentary elections date for next May. The third development is a breakthrough that has regional implications: a United Nations-sponsored meeting was held between Lebanon and Israel to discuss for the first time the demarcation of their maritime border, an official Lebanese source told Al-Monitor.

After years of tensions and delay, the Lebanese government had agreed in January 2017 on a formula to divide the offshore oil and gas blocks along the Lebanese coast on a political, geographical and sectarian basis. The winning bidder of the first licensing round was a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and Russia’s Novatek. Their bid was confined to two blocks only, including block 9 in south Lebanon near Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Official sources in Lebanon told Al-Monitor that the exploration and production agreement between the Lebanese government and the consortium will be signed at the end of January, whereas exploration is expected to begin in mid-2019 and production in 2021-22.

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