Cairn forms consortium aimed at exploration off Lebanon

Cairn Energy PLC, Edinburgh, said it formed a consortium with UK explorer Cove Energy PLC and local Lebanese company CCC aimed at seeking new exploration opportunities in Lebanon and possibly elsewhere in the Middle East.

Cairn’s new consortium is seeking to participate in the anticipated Lebanon licensing round and possibly some other rounds elsewhere in the region, the company said. “One such frontier exploration opportunity is offered by the potential of the offshore Levant basin of the eastern Mediterranean,” Cairn said, noting that in the coming year several countries in the region are expected to hold competitive exploration bid rounds.

Cove Chief Executive Officer John Craven said, “The eastern Mediterranean and specifically the Levant basin offshore Cyprus and Lebanon has always been on our radar due to its under explored hydrocarbon potential and geological similarity to the large discoveries offshore Israel.”

Craven said, “With Cairn leading the consortium, we are in a strong position to identify and, if appropriate, secure licenses consistent with our strategy of seeking nonoperated positions in high potential new frontier basins.”

Craven welcomed CCC as a partner, stating, “In 2009, LNG trains built by CCC were supplying circa 30% of world LNG production.”

The decision to explore the east Mediterranean could be contentious as Israel and Lebanon have not agreed on a maritime border. Not least, Israel's recent gas discoveries in the Mediterranean have created a new source of friction between the two countries, which have fought repeatedly.

Earlier this month, Israel’s defense forces, concerned by threats from Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah organization, deployed unmanned aircraft to protect the country’s recently discovered offshore oil and gas fields.

“The decision to deploy drones was made in order to maintain a 24-hr presence over the site,” said a report in the Jerusalem Post, which was later confirmed by an Israeli defense official.

Cairn’s announcement came as the firm, which is involved in new exploration projects in Greenland, unveiled a return to profit for this year’s first half, quadrupling revenues in the wake of higher oil prices and increased production.

Cairn said profit after tax stood at $371.5 million in the 6 months to June compared with a net loss of $12.6 million in first-half 2010. Group revenue jumped to $1.3 billion from $333 million.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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