BEIRUT, Lebanon, Jan. 6 (UPI) — Lebanon has raised the stakes in the high-octane poker game under way in the natural gas-rich eastern Mediterranean by approving a law to administer offshore exploration and drilling, joining Israel, Cyprus and Turkey in a potentially explosive race for energy riches.
The Beirut government laid down the regulations for the emerging energy industry Wednesday.
“If all goes as scheduled,” said Cesar Abi Khalil, an Energy Ministry adviser, “the licensing round will be held this year.
“The companies will have six months to bid and then the winners will be chosen and exploration will begin.”
Energy expert Roudi Baroudi estimates that Lebanon’s reserves total three times those of Libya’s 54 trillion cubic feet. That’s probably a major overestimate. But it’s certain to heighten tension in the region triggered by Israel’s discovery of major gas fields off its coast, a drive by nearby Cyprus to follow suit and Turkey’s threat to send in its navy to stop the other two from joining forces to exploit the region’s energy riches.
On top of this, Beirut claims parts of the Israeli gas fields lie in Lebanese waters. The two countries are technically at war.
Hezbollah, the heavily armed, Iranian-backed Lebanese “resistance movement,” has warned it will repel Israeli efforts to “plunder” what it considers Lebanese energy reserves. Israel has vowed to use force to protect its assets.
Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war in 2006 in which Lebanon’s infrastructure was heavily bombed. The seasoned Lebanese fighters battled Israel’s vaunted military to a standstill and claimed a “divine victory.”
Both sides view the inconclusive conflict as unfinished business.
It remains to be seen whether the dispute over the vast natural gas reserves, along with several billion barrels of oil, in the Levant Basin will be the trigger for renewed war.
But the bottom line is the infrastructure Israel is building, including offshore platforms and export terminals, is vulnerable to attack by Hezbollah, and even Syria and Iran.
If Beirut’s drive to get in on the regional energy boom does actually get under way, and that’s a big “if” since the threat of conflict could scare off potential investors, Lebanon will find itself in the same boat.
In theory, that could create a version of the Cold War concept of mutually assured destruction between the United States and the Soviet Union that prevented an atomic Armageddon from 1949-99.
It could, optimists argue, push the adversaries toward some sort of peace agreement.
But after more than 60 years of incessant warfare no one’s holding their breath.
Israel hit pay dirt in 2009-10, when Houston company Nobel Energy and its Israeli partner, Delek Drilling, found gas reserves totaling some 25 tcf — and that figure could increase as the full extent of the finds becomes known.
The main fields are Leviathan, with some 16 tcf of gas and believed to extend northward into Cypriot waters already dubbed the Aphrodite field, and Tamar with 8 tcf.
The prize is immense. The U.S. Geological Survey reported in 2010 that the Levant Basin, contains as much as 123 billion tcf of recoverable gas, the equivalent of 20 billion barrels of oil.
Moving into Cypriot waters takes the thorny issue into the embrace of yet another conflict, the age-old friction between Greece and Turkey and the frontline of that dispute, the divided island of Cyprus which has no energy resources of its own.
Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 following a short-lived, Athens-engineered coup by supporters of union with Greece. The Turks seized the north and declared the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It’s recognized only by Ankara. The Greek Cypriot administration in the south is universally recognized.
The Turks, led by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claims Nicosia has no right to explore for gas because the Cyprus issue has not been settled.
Add to this that Israel and Turkey, once strong allies, fell out in 2010 and are now bitter rivals, and the animosity just gets worse.
The Greek Cypriots are increasingly aligned with Israel under a plan to jointly export their gas by pipeline to the energy-hungry European Union via Greece, thus sharpening tensions with Turkey.
Nobel Energy, which spearheads exploration off Cyprus as well, has already reported initial indications of at least 7 tcf of gas in Aphrodite.
That’s sure to stir things up.
Israel has plans to enlarge its navy as the potential of a Mediterranean war with Lebanon looms over oil. According to an October 18 UPI report, Israel is considering adding Israeli built warships to protect the Leviathan and Tamar offshore oil and gas fields. Israel’s navy is already scheduled to receive three new German made Dolphin class submarines.
According to the UPI report, “Neighboring Lebanon, which is technically at war with Israel, claims that Leviathan, the largest field yet found, runs into its territorial waters. Israel rejects that claim. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah has threatened military action to prevent Lebanese energy reserved being ‘looted.’”
In the south, Israel also must protect its current offshore gas platforms near Gaza from potential Hamas attack.
Both Hezbollah and Hamas are reported to have acquired anti-ship missiles from Iran that could be used against Israel’s offshore drilling platforms. Additionally, terrorist groups could simply sail explosive laden boats up to the platforms and detonate their cargo.
Lebanon’s news agency, The Daily Star, reported today that, “Lebanon is gearing up for a long-term oil and gas production program although the looming diplomatic crisis with Israel over each country’s share of undersea fossil fuels threatens full-scale conflict …”
Lebanon, still technically at war with Israel, disputes the current Israeli Lebanese maritime border and claims that thousands of square kilometers of Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan gas fields are within Lebanon’s maritime ‘Exclusive Economic Zone.’ The terrorist organization Hezbollah, now an official member of Lebanon’s government and backed by Syria and Iran has vowed that it will not let Israel take possession of the offshore oil and gas fields. Hezollah leader, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah , stated earlier this year, “Those who put a hand on the Lebanese territories that have oil assets will have their territories harmed in return.”
Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon says Teheran to conduct a 3D seismic survey to map possible oil and natural gas-bearing structures.
The Iranian Labor News Agency quoted Roknabadi as saying, “Lebanon has [an] oil field shared with Israel. Threequarters of this field belongs to Lebanon and a quarter of the field belongs to the occupying regime [Israel],” “This country is about to exploit oil soon, but the Lebanese have not done anything in the field yet,” he added.
“Even when we expressed readiness to help the Lebanese in this field, the parliament of [Israel] voiced objection and said that Iran should not do this. But Lebanese officials have much welcomed our participation in oil exploration in this country.”
Lebanon has a delineation agreement with Cyprus. It hopes to start offshore gas and oil exploration in its waters by early 2012.
The following article by Nathan Jones appeared in The Christ in Prophecy Journal. You can read the original article at: http://www.lamblion.us/2008/09/energy-independence.html.
Other than the economic downturn most of the world is grappling with due to the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis, no other topic has been more center stage lately than the energy crisis. Painful fill-ups at the pumps emptying wallets, food shortages ravaging the third world as corn is converted into ethanol, inflation rising as transportation costs are passed onto consumers, and the devaluation of the dollar as the U.S. government mass-prints money to keep up in competitive buying of fuel — all these and many more troubles have befallen the world over the amount of available oil.
“Black Gold,” “Texas Tea,” “Liquid Dinosaur” — the readiness of this substance is the source of troubles in modern world politics. It will also be a huge motivator in the prophetic scenes of Israel overcoming their Arab neighbors (Psalm 83), Russia and Iran trying and failing to seize the Middle East oil fields (Ezekiel 38,39), and the Antichrist’s struggle against Israel to control the Middle East to establish his Revived Roman Empire (Daniel 2,7).
While the world goes ga-ga over oil, Israel instead has been leading the way in becoming energy independent. With no known oil of their own, Israel knows that currently they are totally dependent on the millions of hostile Arabs intent on destroying them. If it wasn’t for God and the greed of OPEC being greater than their Islamic conviction to utterly remove Israel from the face of the earth, Israel would have been reduced to an agrarian society and destroyed by now.
Companies like Zion Oil and Gas, Inc., via The Joseph Project have been vigorously drilling for that questionable Israeli oil, believing the Bible supports that Israel is sitting on trillions of dollars underground. They base their search on Genesis 49:25-26; Deuteronomy 32:24; Deuteronomy 33:24; and Job 29:6. These verses speak of “blessings of the deep that lies below” and “oil from the flinty crag” and “let him bathe his feet in oil” and “the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.”
Whether oil is under Israel or not, where Israel’s true search for energy independence lies is in its brilliant innovations in alternative energy sources like solar and battery power. Israeli scientists have released revolutionary second generation solar cells that are light years ahead of current installs. Israel is also looking to be the first country by 2020 to have eliminated all gas-powered cars with battery-powered cars. Because of Israel’s small size, driving distances are well within the current 124 mile battery limit. Israel is motivated to be totally energy independent because it knows it is in a race to survive.
The United States and EU, instead of selling out Israel to appease oil-rich Arab countries to keep the supply of oil running, should instead be partnering with Israel in their breakthrough advancements in energy. The United States could indeed be not just energy independent by following Israel’s lead and partnering with them, but also become major suppliers of energy to the world and eliminate the woefully unbalanced trade deficit.
Unfortunately, as end-time players are nearly ready to fulfill their prophetic roles and fall all over themselves to get Middle East oil, the day the world is free of oil tyranny with energy independence may well have to wait till Jesus is on the throne during His Millennial Kingdom. Pity our short-sightedness and greed.