Almost like an urban legend, geologists talk of reserves off the Mediterranean coast that contain 850 million barrels of oil and 96 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
This forbidden jewel lies untouched due to the political deadlock that exists in Lebanon. Evidence in the form of 2-D and 3-D seismic data has reinforced the rumors, but nothing can be confirmed until licenses are granted to drill in the area.
Lebanon’s newest natural gas reserve, along with the broad range of other geological attractions in the Middle East region, ranging from conventional to unconventional resources, carbonates to clastics, and structural to stratigraphic provided the AAPG with more than enough reasons to host their first ever conference in the region last May.
The 2014 LIPE and AAPG Northern Arabia Geoscience Conference and Exhibition was held in Beirut, Lebanon last May.
The LPA (Petroleum Administration Lebanon) had held similar successful events in the area, however by joining forces with AAPG’s Middle East Region, the two took the next step in enlarging that platform for government and industry delegates, consultants and academic researchers to exchange ideas and knowledge. The convention tackled current trends and challenges in the upstream throughout the northern Arabian region.
Robert Kuchinski, president-elect for AAPG’s Middle East Region Council and member of the 2014 LIPE and AAPG Northern Arabia Geoscience Conference and Exhibition Technical Program Committee, described some of the highlights of the event.
He said feedback included compliments on the conference’s strong technical program led by Fadi Nader, “who did an excellent job in attracting very knowledgeable experts that understood the subsurface in the Mediterranean basin.”
Kuchinski also noted the large turnout from local Lebanese students, who were not only were present, but enthusiastic and active. Of the hundreds of total attendees from the region, 43 were Lebanese students.
One high point in particular, Kuchinski said, was the opening ceremony address delivered by Lebanese Minister of Energy and Water Arthur Nazarian.
“Whenever you get the head of a government department to officially open the ceremony, it means a lot. If he didn’t care or show up, the credibility would have been less, but he came because he felt it was important and his message needed to be heard,” said Kuchinski.
The minister’s support was especially significant given the recent disappointing news in Lebanon that gas and oil licenses will be delayed until 2015.
This delay came as a consequence of two major political factions, the Sunni-led alliance and the Shiite coalition Hezbollah, not being able to come to an agreement on a presidential candidate.
Kuchinski said, “The industry is hoping the auction of licenses process will start again after the country has elected a new president,” something they hope will happen in the not too distant future.
The area’s complications increase the risk for oil companies wanting to explore there, making it a very challenging region for AAPG’s Middle East Region, he explained.
“Nevertheless, we did hold a successful event, but of course not as good as it could have been if the licenses had been awarded,” said Kuchinski.
There were still representatives from 20 outside oil companies at the event, from Egypt, the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Germany, Kuwait, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Saudia Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
It may seem strange to some that AAPG would be hard at work in a place without oil production, but that’s only a temporary state of affairs, as Kuchinski and other members are well aware of the potential lying beneath the surface.
“The energy problem in Lebanon and their ever-increasing public debt can disappear if oil and gas production can begin. AAPG would like to play a part in making this happen.“Everyone’s just waiting. When it happens, it will be a huge market expansion for AAPG’s Middle East Region,” Kuchinski elaborated.
AAPG decided to host the event for a number of reasons, including the promise of large-scale hydrocarbon development in the Mediterranean basin and the strong ties they had already formed with the LPA.
“We see many opportunities to grow our membership and thus reach out to more geoscientists to offer the high quality of services that the AAPG is known for,” said Kuchinski. “The fact that the largest oil companies in the world are either based or operate in our region means there is a real thirst for the most current knowledge relating to technology and geoscience.” (Editor’s note: An expanded version of this article is available online.)