The new Qatar Energy logo is pictured during a news conference in Doha, Qatar, October 11, 2021. Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS
State-owned QatarEnergy is in talks with the Lebanese government to take a 30% stake in an offshore exploration block and is also negotiating with TotalEnergies and ENI on this matter, CEO Saad al-Kaabi confirmed on Sunday.
Two sources told Reuters last week that TotalEnergies and the Lebanese government have reached a deal handing the French oil major temporary majority control of the block and paving the way for negotiations with Qatar over a stake in the gas project.
"We are in the process of discussing that with the government of Lebanon and the partners, Total and ENI for a participation of around 30% ownership of that exploration block," Kaabi said.
"In due course when we get that basically finalised as an agreement, and we sign that agreement, we will announce it."
The initial exploration license was held by a three-part consortium of TotalEnergies, Italy's Eni and Novatek. Beirut announced in September that Novatek, which held a 20% stake, would exit.
Lebanon's cabinet issued an unpublished decision on Oct. 21, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, assigning Novatek's stake to a firm called Daja 216 and transferring TotalEnergies's 40% stake to another company, Daja 215. The two sources had told Reuters that Daja 215 and Daja 216 were TotalEnergies vehicles.
The sources had said that the understanding between TotalEnergies and Lebanon was that the French group would enter negotiations with QatarEnergy over the former Novatek stake, and that Qatar was seeking a 30% stake, comprised of Novatek's former stake and a 5% stake from each of TotalEnergies and Eni.
Offshore areas in the eastern Mediterranean and Levant have yielded major gas discoveries in the past decade. Interest in them has grown since the war in Ukraine disrupted gas supplies.