BEIRUT — Long-anticipated exploratory drilling for offshore gas at Block 9 will start Aug. 24, caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayad announced Tuesday, in comments published by the state-run National News Agency.
"On Aug. 24, the drilling process will begin, and it will be a historic day," Fayad said. "After 67 days, we will know the results of this drilling. We hope it will bring good things for the Lebanese."
Fayad was speaking after a meeting with several TotalEnergies officials.
Following the meeting, the minister added that "Total and its partners are fully committed" to working professionally, and that the "outlook is very positive."
"They have expressed interest in the blocks surrounding Block 9, and there will be developments at this level that we will announce when they become more concrete," he added. "We also raised the question of renewable energies, as they have a clear interest in projects of 5 megawatts or more, or 100 megawatts. We have work to do in the ministry, within the government, and at the legislative level."
The announcement came after a visit to the TransOcean Barents drilling rig Tuesday by Fayad, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and caretaker Minister of Public Works Ali Hamieh.
They traveled to the platform on board a helicopter contracted by TotalEnergies and operated by Gulf Helicopters to transport the teams to the drilling rig.
A representative of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA) and a delegation from TotalEnergies also visited the rig.
The day was a "day of joy that I have worked for years to achieve,” Berri stated from the airport. He concluded that he hopes that the visit will be one of the “steps for Lebanon to begin overcoming the economic crisis that Lebanon and its people are experiencing.”
Mikati hailed an "important opportunity" for Lebanon, hoping that "the next few days will be promising and will help bring Lebanon out of the many crises it is suffering from."
Praising "the achievements" implemented so far regarding offshore exploration, Mikati wished for "the cooperation of all to revive Lebanon and put an end to the collapse at all levels."
'Operations will start in a few days'
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, TotalEnergies announced the launch of exploration activities in Block 9.
"We are pleased to announce that the drilling operations will start in a few days, thanks to the commitment of our teams, the support of the Lebanese authorities and of our partners," said Romain de La Martinière, the general manager of TotalEnergies EP Lebanon.
"This exploration well will allow us to assess the materiality of hydrocarbon resources and production potential in the area,” he continued.
Logistical operations on the rig are scheduled to begin later on Tuesday.
The exploration rig reached Lebanese waters on Aug. 16, chartered by TotalEnergies on behalf of the consortium it has formed with Italy's ENI and QatarEnergy.