Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassil said new estimates for nearly half of Lebanese waters suggested the country's reserves of natural gas and oil might be larger than previously thought.
"The current estimate, under a probability of 50 percent, for almost 45 percent of our waters has reached 95.9 trillion cubic feet of gas and 865 million barrels of oil," he said.
The estimates are based on seismic surveys conducted ahead of an auction for exploration rights which has already been delayed by several months by a political stalemate in Lebanon.
As Lebanon prepares to move toward exploring and developing its offshore oil and gas resources, Bassil said he hoped that hydrocarbon revenues would give the country "political, economic and financial independence".
"This definitely needs more exploration and drilling activities to get more precise figures, but this is an indication that with more work surveys and analyses, we are getting higher results and higher expectations," he said in an interview at the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit.
The figures are the first estimates by the government for such a large area of Lebanon's 10 exploration blocs, which range from 1,500 to 2,500 square kilometres, and appear to imply higher reserves than several previous estimates.
A 2010 U.S. Geological Survey study estimated that the Levantine Basin, an area of 83,000 square km which includes waters outside Lebanon's jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean, held 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas and 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil.
An analyst at survey firm Spectrum estimated in May that the country's total deepwater gas reserves could be up to 80 trillion cubic feet.