Egypt's Zohr Gas Field Plans Output in 2017

Egypt's Zohr Gas Field Plans Output in 2017Egypt's Zohr Gas Field Plans Output in 2017

Egypt aims to start natural gas production from its massive offshore Zohr field in 2017, a year ahead of schedule, oil minister Tarek El Molla said.

The Zohr gas field, discovered by Italy's Eni, is the biggest in the Mediterranean, and with an estimated 850 billion cubic meters gas, it is expected to plug Egypt's acute energy shortages and save it billions of dollars in precious hard currency that would otherwise be spent on imports, Trade Arabia reported.

"We're looking to expedite the agreement with the partner and speed up production. Hopefully, we will begin production from the discovery in 2017," El Molla said.

Eni has said it expects to invest between $6 billion and $10 billion to develop the Zohr field. Previously, officials had said production was expected to start in 2018.

Once an energy exporter, Egypt has turned into a net importer because of declining oil and gas production, and increasing consumption. It is trying to speed up production following recent discoveries to fill its energy gap as soon as possible.

In October, British oil major BP said it would begin gas production at its north Alexandria concession in early 2017 rather than mid-2017. That should add up to 28.5 million cubic meters of gas per day by late 2019. The total value of Egypt's natural gas projects, excluding Zohr, is now $13.8 billion, and El Molla said the Zohr discovery had made additional investment much more likely.

El Molla, appointed oil minister in September, succeeded Sherif Ismail who launched a drive to lure back foreign energy investors driven away by low prices and debt arrears.

In July, the oil ministry raised the price paid for gas from Eni to a maximum $5.88 for every million British thermal units and a minimum of $4, based on amounts produced, from $2.65. It then cut a similar deal with British Gas.

Ismail's success in reinvigorating the sector, which is vital for economic growth at a time when energy shortages have crippled industrial production, helped propel him to the post of prime minister in September.