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There is still disagreement between Total Energies 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 Total Energies, 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.