Speakers recommended a road map for the efficient extraction of Lebanon’s hydrocarbon resources
This 4th year’s Oil and Gas Forum organized by Front Page Communication comprised a panoply of suggestions for drawing a roadmap that might put the oil and gas sector on the right track, especially after the government’s recent adoption of two pertinent decrees.
Held on March 7th under the auspices of the President of the Council of Ministers HE Mr. Saad Hariri and in his presence, the conference had the title “Roadmap” with its underlying thought being: “January 4, 2017 the two pending Oil & Gas Governmental decrees were passed by the Council of Ministers. How would a roadmap for developing the Oil & Gas sector in Lebanon look like?”
Experts from many countries took part in the five panels, including HE Mr. Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, chairman of Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah Foundation for Energy & Sustainable Development, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Industry in Qatar; Mr. Stéphane Michel, Director of Total in the Middle East and North Africa; HE Mr. César Abi Khalil, Minister of Energy and Water; HE Mr. Michel Pharaon, State Minister of Planning; Prof. Dr. Gürkan Kumbaroğlu, President of the Turkish Association for Energy Economics; Dr. Jean Burrus, Chairman and CEO of Beicip-Franlab; Mr. Matt Drinkwater, Senior Editor Natural Gas, Power and LNG at Argus Media; Dr. Nasser Hoteit, Board Member of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA); Ms. Alia Moubayed, Geoeconomics & Strategy Program Director at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London; HE Mr. Yassine Jaber, former Minister of Economy and Trade and Member of the Lebanese Parliament; Mr. Wissam Chbat, President of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA); Mr. Malek Takieddine, President of “Al Jad”; Dr. Alain Bifani, Permanent Secretary & Director General of the Lebanese Ministry of Finance; Mrs. Joelle Assouad, Managing Director of Equity Capital Markets at Crédit Agricole; Mr. Roger Melki, Economist & Consultant; Dr. Sami Nasr, Chairman & CEO, ECE Consultant; and Mr. Pierre Terzian, CEO of Petrostrategies and oil expert.
Most speakers stressed the importance of developing the oil and gas sector in Lebanon by capitalizing on neighboring countries’ expertise and learned lessons in oil and gas production. For his part, Prime Minister Hariri pledged that the government will adopt a sound and transparent energy policy, and that it will shortly transfer the tax law on oil activities to Parliament.
In turn, the Energy and Water Minister César Abi Khalil declared that the Ministry is currently focusing on drafting a policy roadmap for electricity, a plan for renewable energy, a national strategy for the water sector, and a comprehensive policy for the oil and gas sector while collaborating with relevant ministries and institutions to draft an all-inclusive strategy for this vital sector.
As for Mr. Michel Pharaon, State Minister of Planning, he emphasized the importance of the oil and gas sector in 2017 and for the years to come, hence the necessity of taking the right decisions, avoiding mistakes and leaving politics behind whenever they hamper progress as has happened in the past.
Finally, participants were optimistic that gas will be the energy of the future regardless of its price volatility, and they expected that global gas production will increase by some 50% by the year 2040.
Despite the assertion that the Lebanese State would put the Oil & Gas decrees to its best use while keeping the international oil companies interested, it was pointed out that while the MENA region is among the richest in oil and gas, it had adopted the worst energy-security policies, which should compel Lebanon to exert additional efforts to make the national economy more secure energy-wise
In the last session that grouped almost all speakers, and was moderated by Mrs. Nina Dos Santos, CNNMoney Europe Editor, the forum adopted the following recommendations:
1) Lebanon should stay committed to the licensing schedule for exploiting its hydrocarbon reserves - now that that schedule is underway to avoid a loss of credibility with international oil companies
2) Even before those reserves have been extracted, today’s cheap gas offers Lebanon the chance to prepare its economy for using its own gas in years to come. This could be achieved by shifting its supply towards gas now, even if it has to be imported in the short term
3) Lebanon should forge good relationships with international investors and private companies to build infrastructure needed for developing Lebanon’s oil and gas fields and investment should be made in education to train a future Lebanese oil and gas workforce
4) Lebanon should foster regional cooperation with hydrocarbon rich neighboring countries, like Egypt and Cyprus, to develop an economically viable distribution network for its energy
5) This work should be undertaken in a transparent manner, adhering to international standards of corporate governance and the wealth created should be managed in such a way as to create inclusive growth.
The forum concluded with the note that “Last but not least, managing expectations is the most important principle to be observed.”
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