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Putin meets Lebanon PM Hariri in Russia visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri during a meeting in Sochi on September 13, 2017.

putin said Wednesday ahead of the meeting that agreements signed between the two countries during Hariri’s visit to Russia would “work toward the positive development of our bilateral inter-state relationship,” Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported.

After the meeting, Hariri said that deepening military ties and reconstruction in war-torn Syria had been discussed.

Hariri met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.

The Lebanese leader told Russian state television channel Rossiya 24 on Wednesday that Beirut wanted to buy more Russian military equipment and that Russian energy companies are in line to win drilling licenses off Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast.

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The Natural Gas Giant To Challenge Israel

By Viktor Katona – Oct 04, 2017, 12:00 PM CDT

When Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri paid a visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin mid-September, most media coverage revolved around political and military issues. Yet the meeting was part of Mr. Hariri’s charm offensive to attract foreign investors to Lebanon’s offshore zone, a long-cherished glimmer of hope for the heavily indebted country that has suffered from chronical political paralysis for some decades already.

After a 29-month deadlock during which Lebanon had no president, the team of Hariri and President Michel Aoun was determined to provide a much-needed boost to end legislative obstructionism and get down to work.

Although Lebanon’s offshore licensing round officially began in 2013, the bids of pre-qualified companies are due by October 12, 2017. But is the four-year wait worth it?

Lebanon’s gas transformation might be a worthy cause; however, then the nation’s export expansion plans would be largely limited to exporting small volumes to Jordan or Syria. A 2012 3D seismic survey has estimated Lebanon’s total recoverable gas reserves at 25 TCf (0.7 TCm), meaning that building an LNG plant is pretty much out of question. Lebanon’s offshore area is estimated to contain 660 million barrels of oil; however, all adjacent nations focus strictly on gas extraction, so Lebanon will most likely go down the same path.Related: Next Week Could Be A Turning Point For The OPEC Output Deal

Against such a background, now that Syria’s war-ravaged oil and gas sector is destined to witness an increase in Russian participation (a trend that will be massively buttressed politically by the Syrian government), Lebanon might also fall into the Russian sphere of oil and gas influence.

Largely due to its military operation in Syria, Russia has a constructive relationship with both Israel and Lebanon (the reason why Iranian involvement is inconceivable) and bringing it in would even go down well with Lebanese hardliners—and its why American companies will have a hard time.

European companies, especially majors like Total and ENI, are most likely to join in, especially considering that the blocks will be distributed to consortiums.

Despite all the challenges, Lebanon remains an alluring asset. With no national oil and gas company around and a relatively liberal taxation regime, it might grow into Israel’s energy peer.

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