Energean, a London-based hydrocarbon company, has exported the first-ever crude oil shipment from the Karish gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean, four months after the signing of the maritime border agreement between Israel and Lebanon.
The Energean’s Power Floating Production Storage and Offloading unit was used to develop the relatively small Karish field, which was discovered in 2013.
The field, along with the nearby Tarin field, is estimated to hold as much as 2-3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 44 million barrels of oil. Energean holds the contract to develop the Karish field.
Lebanon and Israel contested the rights to the field. Last July, Israel shot down three drones believed to have been launched towards the facility by Hezbollah.
The extraction of gas from the contested waters before the conclusion of any deal was seen by the Lebanese group as a “red line”. However, a maritime border deal was finally agreed upon in October.
Under the agreement, Israel retains full rights to develop the Karish field, while Lebanon retains full rights in nearby Qana. As Qana extends southward across a border known as Line 23, Israel will be entitled to a share of royalties through a side agreement with the operator, the French company Total.
Hezbollah has embraced the agreement, seeing it as a potential way out of Lebanon’s ongoing economic crisis.
The Financial Times reported that additional security measures were taken during the crude loading process yesterday.
The Seliger Aframax tanker, capable of carrying about 700,000 barrels of crude, was visible on satellite tracking next to the Energean Power FPSO late on Sunday evening but then turned off its tracking device. This was done for security reasons, explained one person familiar with the operation.
A week after the maritime agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged during the election campaign that he would “neutralize” the deal with Lebanon. He described the maritime deal as “illegal” and claimed that he would not be bound by it.
He argued that the then Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defence Minister Benny Gantz, “didn’t want to extract the gas in the first place, but now they want to surrender it to Hezbollah.”
However, Hezbollah sees the agreement as a step towards economic stability in Lebanon.