BEIRUT — Qatar wants to join the consortium formed by energy companies TotalEnergies and Eni, which are licensed to explore potential gas fields off the Lebanese coast, caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayad announced on Friday after a meeting with the outgoing Prime Minister, Najib Mikati and members of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA).
Fayad's announcement follows an agreement earlier this week between Lebanon and Israel on the demarcation of their maritime border, which officials from both countries described as "historic," and which could allow the two nations to start offshore drilling.
Talks between Qatar and Lebanon to discuss ways of cooperating in the energy and hydrocarbon sectors have been ongoing since Russia's Novatek withdrew from the consortium in late August, leaving its 20 percent share to the Lebanese state. While it could have chosen to take a 0.01 percent share and split the rest between TotalEnergies and Eni, Lebanon chose to keep Novatek's 20 percent, making it responsible for covering 20 percent of the costs while being entitled to 20 percent of the profits in case of a gas discovery.
The choice is considered risky by many experts as the country has been struggling with an economic and financial crisis for the past three years. In a speech on Friday, Fayad did not specify how Qatar would intervene in this consortium but indicated that the general managers of the Qatari company concerned — which the caretaker minister also did not name — are in contact with the Ministry of Energy.
Fayad also said that the LPA is the side tasked with monitoring the management of the file. As an autonomous public institution in charge of planning, supervising and managing the Lebanese oil sector, the LPA acts as a consultant between the Lebanese state and the oil companies under the control of the Ministry of Energy. This entity is, among other things, in charge of setting the precise schedule in terms of logistics, drilling and establishing the platform for the production of gas and oil. Fayad on Friday called for the LPA "to have the necessary resources" to accomplish its mission.