No wonder Norway refused to meed an Israeli delegation on efficient oil exploitation, we were already in cahoots with Lebanon

Going back about 8 weeks or so, a story much commented upon both here and elsewhere was the one where it transpired that Norway declined a request from Israel to receive a delegation to study the Norwegian oil industry, its technology and strategies.

The following story may explain this puzzling rejection by Norway, we are in cahoots with Lebanon who now has convinced that the oil fields Israel has discovered really should belong to Lebanon

Ready for Lebanese oil adventure – with Norwegian assistance

The conflict-ridden country is ready to start oil and gas activities in the disputedsea area. Norwegian officials have drawn up regulations – and the Lebanese will have an “oil fund” after the Norwegian model. Lebanon is perhaps a term more often associated with wars and conflicts than oil and wealth. The small country sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea, Syria and Israel has for decades been a political stage where a number of players have openly played out their agendas  – whether they have been Syrian, American, Israeli or Iranian.

In the wake of the country’s reconstruction after the civil war, Lebanon has incurred huge debts, which it has had limited opportunities to serve because of lack of natural resources or a strong export industry.

But in recent years, the ever-changing governments have spotted an option off its coast: black gold and gas on the Mediterranean seabed.

Wants to start drilling within three years
– We start with the first licensing round in March, and expect that the first contracts will be signed within six months. A little depending on how quickly oil companies act as we expect drilling to begin within three years, said upstream consultant Wissam E. Chbat in Lebanon’s water and energy to Aftenposten.no.

Lebanon now has a completely new petroleum legislation  with accompanying regulations. And – it has been prepared by Norwegian officials, who since 2006 has assisted the Lebanese authorities to facilitate offshore oil operations.

– We have developed  a policy, a law and regulations for the petroleum sector. The Lebanese often refers to  the new law as “The Norwegian Law,” says senior adviser Peter Stigset in NORAD.

Wants petroleum fund
The head of the oil committee of the Lebanese parliament has previously said it planned to build an oil fund that will protect future income from the petroleum sector. Much of this will be used to pay down its huge debt.

The Norwegian seismic company PGS has surveyed the potential oil and gas reserves found in the seabed off the Lebanese coast on behalf of the Lebanese.

It is estimated that there may be large oil and gas reserves in the area. In 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the so-called Levang Basin, which covers areas outside of Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Kypos, can contain up to 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 3,400 billion cubic meters of gas.

Fear of oil war with Israel
But troubles are brewing on the horizon. The maritime border dispute between Lebanon and neighboring Israel is by no means clear, and the two countries are technically at war. At the same time, both of the two small countries, have a huge, unmet demand for energy.

This brings the situation come to a head even further, and in a letter to the UN the country’s foreign minister Adnan Mansour writes that jurisdiction over 860 square kilometers of sea area is unclear. Lebanon has asked the UN for help to clarify the limits, but so far there has been no precise clarification.

The situation is made more difficult by the fact that there is not any clear land border between Lebanon and Israel that can be used as a reference point for the limits of the sea.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already said that the country will “defend their natural resources.”

On the Lebanese side, the militant organization Hezbollah, which also has a political wing that supports the current sitting government, made it clear that they would “compel Israel to respect Lebanon’s rights” (to extract gas and oil).

A challenging situation
NORAD points out that the conflict has represented challenges for them.

– Lebanon is a troubled corner of the world, and it has placed limitations on what we can do. Because of the disputed areas between Israel and Lebanon, we are not engaged in any field-specific activities, says Stigset.

The unstable political situation in the country has meant that the government has been replaced several times a few years, the last of the traditional Western-backed prime minister stone Saad Hariri was replaced in favor of Najib Mikati, who has the support of Hezbollah.

– This has at times slowed the activity somewhat, but we have related to the sameMinister of Energy for two years and a stable petroleum team that has been the same for five years, says Stigset.

Lebanese authorities stressed that Norway’s role in developing the country’s energy sector has been “essential”.

– Without this help I am sure this would have been delayed and may not be implemented at all, says Wissam E. Chbat in the Lebanese Department for water and energy.