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80% of oil workers must be local, says Lebanese Minister

Dec 06

Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil Monday said 80 percent of the workforce in any future oil sector must be Lebanese.

“We made sure to put in the book of terms the minimum requirement that 80 percent of the workforce in this sector must be Lebanese,” Abi Khalil said at a news conference from the Energy Ministry.

“We are working to put the final touches on our report to refer to Cabinet in order to conclude this file.”

“Hopefully this will be the beginningof a new age, a new oil age for Lebanon,” the minister added.

Lebanon has no proven reserves of either oil or gas. Although preliminary seismic data collected by the government has indicated the possibility of natural resources, there will be no confirmation of economically viable quantities without exploratory drilling.

Abi Khalil said Sunday that “exploration and drilling would commence after Cabinet’s approval of [key bills],” and said they were attempting to complete negotiations with international companies as soon as possible in order to present a plan to the Cabinet for approval.

A consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek was the only bidder for Lebanon’s first tender of offshore oil and gas exploration blocks in October.

The consortium submitted two bids for Block 4 off the coast just north of Beirut and Block 9 off the south Lebanese coast. The current discussion surrounding oil and gas explorations began in 2013, but were only restarted in January this year following delays caused, in part, by the 29-month presidential vacuum that ended with the election of Michel Aoun on Oct. 31, 2016.

As a number of draft laws are set to be discussed in a joint meeting of parliamentary committees Tuesday, Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblatt urged against manipulation in the oil and gas sector, pointing to the country’s notoriety for corruption.

Jumblatt wrote in a tweet Monday that the proposed bills “are very important to protect national wealth from the greed of companies or intermediaries.”

“No to any manipulation in this sector. Lebanon has a seriously bad reputation for corruption – enough,” he added.

The PSP leader added that “the recommendations made by oil expert [and founder and former chairman of the Arab Petroleum Research Center] Nicolas Sarkis remain the basis for addressing the current gaps [in the draft bills].”

zawya