Offshore Lebanon: Solving the Eastern Mediterranean’s Oil Mystery

As Jane Austen might have said: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that exploration companies possessing acreage in the Eastern Mediterranean must be in want of biogenic gas.” In this months issue of GEO Expro Neil Hodgson, Karyna Rodriguez and Paolo Esestime delve into Offshore Lebanon.

Lebanon’s imminent second offshore licence round will offer blocks with extraordinary potential. Blocks in the west display large, simple 3-way dip and 1-way fault closed structures on modern 3D seismic, where blind planar east–west faults cut long north–south folds. These features, with 400–500m of closure, enclose 1,000m of Nile-derived deepwater fan, high quality sandstone in very large traps. Whilst these are generally assumed to be filled by dry biogenic gas like the adjacent Leviathan and Zohr discoveries, actually a credible oil play from an oil-prone source rock directly underneath the reservoir suggests this undrilled acreage could make Lebanon the East Mediterranean’s oil capital.

Or so it would seem with the spate of giant biogenic gas discoveries in the Levant basin in Early Miocene sandstones and Early Cretaceous carbonate reefs over the last ten years. Yet there is a deeper mystery here, as the  Jurassic, Late Cretaceous and Lower Tertiary of the Eastern Mediterranean ‘Levant’ basins all display credible oil source rocks – so why has this not been the dominant hydrocarbon phase encountered? The answer to this puzzle is pointing explorers in a most remarkable direction: away from the Southern Levant and Eratosthenes platforms and the thick Tertiary Nile Delta cone and into the Northern Levant Basin offshore Lebanon. Here, a ‘Goldilocks window’ for generation puts the primary Lower Tertiary and Upper Cretaceous source rocks squarely in the oil window, where they sit directly beneath 1 km of Early Miocene Nilederived basin floor sandstone fans in numerous significant simple structural traps.

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Offshore Lebanon: Solving the Eastern Mediterranean’s Oil Mystery