Natural Gas Europe has had the pleasure to speak with Bassam Fattouh, director of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies and professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Dr Fattouh discusses the challenges facing Lebanon’s hydrocarbon industry and the eventual benefits from the successful development of the resources. Dr Fattouh also explains the conditions for Lebanon’s entry into the export market as a net natural gas producer and the various possible export options. This interview was largely inspired by a policy brief authored by Bassam Fattouh and Laura El-Katiri, research fellow with the Oil and the Middle East Programme at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES). The policy brief, entitled Lebanon: The Next Eastern Mediterranean Gas Producer?, was published by the GMF in February 2015 and is part of Foreign and Security Policy paper series. You can access it here.
How will the discovery of offshore gas in Lebanon benefit its economy and improve its energy security?
The successful development of Lebanon’s gas resources could bring substantial economic benefits to an ailing economy and strengthen the country’s energy security. 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. In 2013, Lebanon’s imports of oil and its derivatives amounted to $5.11 billion, representing 11.4 percent of its GDP. It would also allow Lebanon to reduce the state’s debt, estimated at 146 percent of GDP in 2014. 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.