QatarEnergy, Qatar's state-owned oil and gas company, will participate in oil and gas exploration off the coast of Lebanon, Reuters reported on Thursday.
The company will join France’s TotalEnergies and Italy’s Eni in exploring two offshore blocks. QatarEnergy will have a 30% stake in the enterprise, while TotalEnergies and Eni will each have 35%. The arrangement had been in talks since October, according to Reuters.
In November, Israel approved QatarEnergy’s participation in the plans.
What it means: Israel has been pumping natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean Sea for years. However, Lebanon claimed part of Israel’s exploration area as its own maritime territory. Following US-brokered negotiations, Israel and Lebanon reached an agreement on the border last October.
Lebanon immediately told TotalEnergies to start gas exploration after the deal. Eni later joined TotalEnergies in the consortium.
Last month, TotalEnergies and Eni released a rough timeline of their Lebanese gas exploration plans. The two firms said they hope to begin drilling in 2023.
Why it matters: The Lebanese economic crisis is showing no signs of dissipating and has been marked by fuel and electricity shortages since it began in 2019. Lebanon securing its own natural gas supply could help alleviate people’s suffering.
Still, it will take years for Lebanon to start pumping gas. Corruption and governance issues could also plague the energy exploration efforts.
QatarEnergy’s participation in the consortium also demonstrates Qatar’s continued interest in helping Lebanon. Last year, Qatar gave $60 million to the Lebanese army. The army is chronically short on cash.
Qatari officials have repeatedly talked about their commitment to oil and gas as the world seeks to transition to renewable energy. At the World Economic Forum earlier this month, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said developing countries must be able to “develop their own resources” and criticized what he called the “unattainable goals” of the energy transition.
Know more: Israel is expected to increase its natural gas drilling this year, Danny Zaken reported for Al-Monitor last month.