Nazarian, Petroleum Administration Say Offshore Geological Data Wasn't Handed Over to Anyoneإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Energy and Water Minister Arthur Nazarian and the Lebanese Petroleum Administration stressed Wednesday that any data resulting from geological surveys for the country's offshore gas and oil “has not been handed over to any side,” refuting media reports.
This data “is the property of the Lebanese state, and the ministry and the administration are exerting efforts to maintain it and safeguard it in line with the applicable laws,” Nazarian and the LPA said in a joint statement.
They clarified that the media reports contained information related to “the two-dimensional seismic survey that was conducted in 1993 in the area off the northern coast which stretches from Ras al-Shaqaa to the northern border with Syria.”
“This data is in the possession of the Lebanese state (Ministry of Energy and Water) and it was not handed over to any side with the aim of copying it on modern hard disk drives or for analysis,” the statement underlined.
However, it did not deny that an agreement was signed with Norway to “support the Lebanese institutions and build their capabilities in the issue of oil and gas, through the Ministry of Energy and Water, the Lebanese Petroleum Administration and some other relevant ministries.”
Earlier on Wednesday, As Safir newspaper reported that some Lebanese officials were exerting efforts to hand over the data of a geological survey for the country's offshore gas and oil in the North to Norway's Petroleum Commission.
The daily said the alleged move could have hidden intentions such as an attempt to draw the attention of new companies in an illegal way to join the country's tenders and take part in exploring Lebanon's offshore oil and gas wealth in return for certain financial gains.
Experts warned in comments to the newspaper that the data is considered part of the country's “oil national security,” stressing that it should be classified.
“Leaking the data or handing it over to any side is prohibited,” the experts stressed.
The experts warned of handing the data over to any foreign country “which could risk leaking the data or publishing it without Lebanon's consent,” noting that “it could enormously harm Lebanon's strategic interests.”
Lebanon is seeking to renew the interest of international companies in offshore oil exploration despite the stalling of the government in issuing licenses and amid reports that Israel is “stealing” Lebanese gas.
Last August, the government postponed for the fifth time the first round of licensing for gas exploration over a political dispute.
The disagreements were over the designation of blocks open for bidding and the terms of a draft exploration agreement.
Meanwhile, As Safir reported that Lebanon's stalemate in exploring its natural oil and gas wealth granted Israel time to hold a $15 billion dollars gas deal with Jordan and another worth $47 billion with Egypt.
In March 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated a mean of 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and a mean of 34.5 trillion cubic meters of recoverable gas in the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean, which includes the territorial waters of Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Cyprus.
Lebanon argues that a maritime map it submitted to the U.N. is in line with an armistice accord drawn up in 1949, an agreement which is not contested by Israel.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy Amos Hochstein, who is following up the maritime dispute between Lebanon and Israel, reportedly delayed a visit to Beirut until Lebanese officials agree on the petroleum decrees.
There are sharp differences between officials on the endorsement of two oil decrees -- the first tackles the demarcation of the 10 maritime oil blocks, and touches on the division of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to several blocks that are not entirely equal, while the second decree, which is linked to setting up a revenue-sharing model, tackles the contracts signed with the international companies.