Lebanon Looks For A Fuel Supplier After Sonatrach Refused To Renew The Contract
The Lebanese government started the procedures to search for an alternative to Sonatrach to supply it with fuel after the Algerian oil company refused to extend the contract signed with it, as a result of the repercussions left by what was known as the “fraudulent fuel scandal”, and the Lebanese authorities ’failure to protect Sonatrach’s reputation from the accusations levelled against it in the case.
The Lebanese government mandated the Energy Minister, Raymond Ghajar, to search for an alternative country interested in signing a contract to supply Lebanon with fuel oil after the National Gas Company Sonatrach decided not to renew the contract, which terms expire at the end of December 2020.
Lebanese Information Minister, Manal Abdessamad, stated that the government gave the Energy Minister less than a month to make contacts with several countries interested in cooperating with Lebanon to purchase fuel oil and fuel gas, while the Energy Minister confirmed that the contract with Sonatrach will not be renewed and that a condition book is prepared and that it reached final stages before announcing the tender, indicating that the auction management directorate will be consulted to include amendments in the book of conditions.
The Energy Minister – according to was reported by Lebanese media on Thursday – explained that the Lebanese government agreed to renew the contract with Sonatrach after the end of the current contract, which terms expire on December 31, but the Algerian company through its British branch “Sonatrach PVI” refused the extension due to the repercussions of the fraudulent fuel scandal.
Sonatrach Rejects The Accusations
Sonatrach announced two weeks ago that the contract was not renewed, and the company rejected what it called” prejudice to its reputation” and the Lebanese authorities’ silence before the media attacks against the Algerian company, while the spokesman to the Presidency, Mohamed Said, announced that the case is an internal Lebanese one, adding that instructions were given to the Algerian justice to investigate the case to reveal its details.
Sonatrach rejects any charges that are brought against it in this regard, especially since the fuel has not been supplied from the products of the parent company, as it passes through several quality control departments before shipping it to the country that exploited it and the fact that the first laboratory reports showed the safety of the shipment, so the company is not responsible for its damage while arriving at the port awaiting transportation procedures.
It is worth noting that since April, the Lebanese judicial authorities arrested officials and government employees on charges of taking bribes and changing reports, and the Public Prosecution summoned 21 people, including government employees, in the case of importing non-conforming fuel for the benefit of EDL through a company owned by the Sonatrach group.
The Lebanese media talked about the political investment in the case because the Aounist (Michel Aoun) party exposed the case aiming two political parties, namely the “Marada Movement” which is close to Sarkis Halis, the general manager of the oil facilities company in Lebanon, and the Lebanese Forces Party, which is close to the company “ZR Energy”.
The two parties respond to this by saying that the responsibility lies with the Energy Ministry, which has been assumed by the Free Patriotic Movement for 10 years, and they consider what is being attempted to involve the two parties in the case for political reasons, at a time when the Energy Minister was not summoned for investigation.
The Case Is Doubtful
While questions hover over the issue and the timing of its explosion, which coincided with the collapse of oil prices on the international market, the Lebanese media raised doubts about it after moving the file following a tweet by the former Lebanese Energy Minister, Nada Bustani, in which she stated that the fuel oil imported from Algerian Sonatrach is not conforming and caused a reduction in the supply of electricity.
Observers of the file did not rule out that the accusations were a step to justify the departure of the fuel-ships in Lebanon after the exchange rate change and its signed contract with the Lebanese state in Lebanese pounds, and its endeavour to pressurize, from another side, to stop work for technical reasons to change the currency of the contract or its nature due to the scarcity of the dollar in the Lebanese market.