Oil and gas resources have the potential to transform Lebanon’s economy. Neighboring countries – namely Cyprus and Israel – have made significant natural gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean, and Lebanese officials believe there are more discoveries to be made beneath Lebanon’s waters. The country is in the early stages of building an oil and gas sector but still has not drilled any exploration wells. Lack of drilling means that it is very difficult to estimate how much oil and gas the country may have, but data collected so far prompted the Minister of Energy and Water at the time to declare in October 2013 that “the current estimate, under a probability of 50 percent, for almost 45 percent of our waters, has reached 95.9 trillion cubic feet of gas and 865 million barrels of oil.” While it is impossible to verify such an estimate until wells are drilled, that 52 international oil companies applied for rights to explore in Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone suggests many believe the country has a high potential of having oil and gas resources.
In May 2013, Lebanon launched its first offshore oil and gas licensing round. The government initially wanted exploration and production sharing contracts to be signed with international oil and gas companies in early 2014, but the process has been delayed due to the prevailing political deadlock.
Lebanon’s potential oil and/or gas resources have become a larger part of the national conversation since the adoption of a law in 2010 allowing for offshore drilling and the subsequent establishment of the Lebanon Petroleum Administration. The oil and gas sector is very complex, and the technical experts most familiar with it often use terminology that is difficult for the general public to understand.
In early 2014, the SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom spent several weeks monitoring the Lebanese media coverage of the country’s nascent oil and gas sector. SKeyes scrutinized six television channels, five newspapers, two news websites and one magazine. The goal of monitoring was to have an idea of what topics related to oi land gas Lebanese media was (or was not) covering, how often the sector was covered and how accurate the coverage was.