New Rosneft Entity Formed to Manage Operations in Lebanon, in Proximity to Other Russian Strategic Pursuits in the Region

On May 27, it was reported that, in February 2020, Rosneft had registered a new company in Lebanon, Levante Storage S.A.R.L., to manage the Russian oil major’s storage operations in the country.  Levante Storage will take over management of Rosneft’s oil and gas terminal in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, which sits approximately 30 km from the Syrian border.

Rosneft assumed operational control over the terminal in January 2019, under a 20-year concession agreement.  Per that agreement, Rosneft also committed to carry out reconstruction and expansion work at the terminal, which will reportedly include the building of three additional storage facilities and a refining facility.

The terminal investment is emblematic of the emerging strategic importance of Lebanon to Russia’s efforts to increase its influence in the east Mediterranean, which, especially since the Kremlin’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, has taken on various forms.  The terminal’s proximity to Russia’s military bases in Syria, particularly at Tartus port and Khmeimim air base, is noteworthy, as is its proximity (approximately 100 km) to the strategic, Baniyas port, which is a potential end point to the proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline.  Russian interest in this project continues to be speculated.

Russia also maintains other energy interests in Lebanon. Russia’s second largest gas company, Novatek, has a 20% stake (as part of an international consortium that includes France’s Total and Italy’s Eni) in two offshore oil and gas exploration licenses in Lebanon for Block 4 and the disputed, Block 9 in the eastern Mediterranean.