What does it take to drill a well?

In January 2018 two Exploration and Production Agreements (EPAs) for block 4 and 9 were signed between the Republic of Lebanon and the consortium composed of Total E&P Liban s.a.l. (Right Holder Operator), Eni Lebanon B.V. and Novatek Lebanon (Right Holders Non-Operators).
In compliance with rules and regulations in vigour, the consortium submitted in March 2018 the Exploration Plans for blocks 4 and 9, which constitute steering documents describing the implementation of petroleum operations during the first exploration period consisting of:

  • Undertaking data reprocessing, such as evaluation, integration and mapping of all available seismic data for blocks 4 and 9.
  • Undertaking necessary environmental and social studies for blocks 4 and 9.
  • Drilling at least one firm well in each block and one contingent well in block 4.

In 2018 and 2019, the consortium resumed technical preparations and undertook additional geological and geophysical studies in addition to environmental surveys.

A series of competitive calls for tenders were launched gradually by the Right Holder Operator TOTAL E&P Liban s.a.l. throughout the year 2019 for the procurement of operation support services and number of service contracts were awarded subsequently. The drilling contract was awarded to Vantage Drilling Africa and the drillship that is mobilized to drill the first offshore well in block 4 is Tungsten Explorer.

Necessary permits for operations were awarded by the relevant institutions including, helicopter operation permit, import and management of radioactive material and explosive material permits to name a few. 

In October 2019, the consortium submitted the Application of Drilling Permit (ADP) for block 4 to the Minister of Energy and Water. The approval of the ADP for block 4 was granted by the Minister of Energy and Water in December 2019.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report approval for Block 4 was granted by the Ministry of Environment in February 2020.

Earlier in February 2020, three service ships docked at the Beirut Port and will provide logistical support for the drillship. The service ships will provide the following services:

  • Transport the supplies, equipment and materials to the drillship from the supply base in Beirut Port.
  • Transport of hazardous waste for treatment and final disposal in a licensed facility outside Lebanon.
  • Patrol the area around the drillship to secure the safety zone surrounding the drillship with a radius of up to 500 m. 
  • Provide support during emergency situations.

The milestones listed above were necessary to start the drilling activities in block 4.


The Application for Drilling Permit consists of a well designation/name proposal and a drilling programme. The drilling programme includes geological and environmental information about the area in which drilling activities will take place such as the targeted prospect, the schedule of drilling activities, the drilling methods to be used, the environmental assessment within the area in which petroleum activities are to take place and mitigation measures to reduce the environmental impact.

Well Information
Well Designation ID 16/1
Well Registration Number 1
Block Block 4
Well Classification Exploration
 Well Shape  Deviated
 Environment  Deepwater
 Targeted Prospect Byblos 
 Primary Target  Lower Miocene
 Water Depth 1515 m 
 Planned True Vertical Depth Subsea (TVDS) 4075 m 



Exploration drilling in block 4 marks the first offshore exploration drilling in Lebanon – a frontier, deep water and previously unexplored area.
Drilling will last for up to sixty days. Afterwards the consortium will evaluate the results which are likely to come up in the following two months – in June 2020.
Several uncertainties will only be confirmed once drilling is completed keeping in mind that the offshore petroleum sector is a long-term sector. As a general rule of thumb in the industry, the Probability of Success (POS) of hitting a commercial discovery from the first exploration well is less than 25%. In the short-term, following the completion of the first exploration drilling two scenarios are envisioned:

  • A dry well – no discovery is made: In this case, this well would increase the geological understanding in a previously unexplored area and subsequently decrease the associated geological risk for future exploration wells.
  • A discovery is made: In this case, the right holders would need to undertake additional assessment that might include drilling additional wells to determine whether the quantities discovered are commercial. If commerciality is reached, preparations for development will kick-off.

The first exploratory well is a significant milestone that further confirms Lebanon’s commitment to develop its prospective offshore petroleum sector for the benefit of current and future generations.
In parallel, intensifying exploration activities will further confirm Lebanon’s petroleum potential therefore exploration drilling in block 9 will follow. Additionally the deadline for the Second Offshore Licensing Round is scheduled for the 30th of April 2020.  

Back to top