Lebanon: The Next Eastern Mediterranean Gas Producer?
Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone forms part of the Levant Basin, which has been estimated to hold up to 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, in addition to some 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The development of its hydrocarbon reserves would enable Lebanon to reduce its dependence on imports of oil products, which in 2012 constituted more than 97 percent of its total primary energy supplies. The government is keen to diversify Lebanon’s energy mix away from oil to strengthen its security of supply and to reduce air pollution. But gas production is not likely to begin before the mid-2020s. Until then, Lebanon would need to import all its gas requirements in order to increase the share of natural gas in the energy mix. The commercial development of Lebanon’s hydrocarbon reserves faces many internal and external challenges. Lebanon’s hydrocarbon sector and its institutional and regulatory framework are still in their infancy. Deadlock in Lebanon’s sectarian political system has led to long delays in the country’s hydrocarbon development and produced a volatile regulatory environment. The country suffers from weak administration, widespread corruption, and a poor business climate. As yet, Lebanon has no proven gas reserves, and until 2005 it did not have any gas infrastructure at all. The international community has a strong interest in ensuring that Lebanon’s potential hydrocarbon wealth brings benefits to the country and the region and does not become an additional source of tension.