A consortium led by French petroleum company TotalEnergies is set to commence offshore drilling operations in Lebanon from September this year, Reuters reported.

The consortium, which includes Italian oil and gas company ENI and Qatar’s state-owned petroleum company QatarEnergy, has assigned a rig for the offshore Block 9.

On the sidelines of the World Utilities Congress in Abu Dhabi, Lebanon’s caretaker energy minister Walid Fayyad was quoted by the news agency as saying: “The rig will start working in Lebanon in September. Before the end of the year, we will know if there is a discovery.”

The move comes after Lebanon and Israel settled their maritime border dispute in October last year.

Subsequently, TotalEnergies and ENI signed a framework agreement with Israel to implement the maritime boundary agreement and to start exploring an identified prospect in Block 9 that might extend into Israeli waters.

Minister Fayyad added that a potential discovery in the block might result in another extension of a deadline for applications to explore eight additional offshore blocs, beyond June.

He said: “I have been hearing from players in the field that they are keen to see the result of the drilling in Bloc 9 before they make decisions as to further investments or commitments in Lebanon. In the end if we don’t have enough interest and players, we must adapt.”

In December last year, TotalEnergies chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné and Minister Fayad discussed the potential development activities in Lebanon.

Earlier this year, TotalEnergies and Eni completed the transfer of a 30% interest in exploration Blocks 9 and 4, to QatarEnergy.

TotalEnergies now operates the blocks with a 35% stake, while Eni and QatarEnergy hold 35% and 30% stakes in the blocks, respectively.