Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tarek El-Molla said his country is seeking to complete the development of the new Mediterranean Zohr gas field by the beginning of 2019, ahead of the previously scheduled date by end of same year.
"President Sisi has directed the completion of the field's development in 2018 instead of 2019," El-Molla said in statements to Egyptian OnLive channel.
"We will work to comply with the president's directives to complete the development by late 2018 or early 2019," the minister added.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi inaugurated on Wednesday the first stage of production at the super-giant Zohr gas field, which the country predicts will help achieve its goal of self-sufficiency in the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
El-Sisi praised the collaborative effort between several Egyptian companies, including Belayim Petroleum Company (Petrobel), a joint venture between the Italian-Egyptian Oil Company (IEOC) and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), for achieving the project's development goals.
Located 180km (110 miles) off the coast of Port Said and 1,500m deep, the gigantic gas field is the largest in the Mediterranean Sea.
The inauguration comes nearly a month after experimental production began at the field at an initial 350 million cubic feet per day (mcfd), a test which had been planned shortly after the field’s discovery by Italian company Eni in August 2015.
Field production would rise to 2.7 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) if development is accomplishment by the beginning of 2019, transforming Egypt into a regional power hub.
Total reserves of the field are estimated at 30 trillion cubic feet, according to El-Molla in earlier press statements.
Production will increase to 1 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) by June 2018, marking the end of the first production stage and granting Egypt self-sufficiency in LNG supply.
According to Al-Ahram daily newspaper, investments in the first and second stages are estimated at $15 billion.
Six wells are currently in use for production in stage one. That number is set rise to 20 wells by stage two, according to the minister.
Eni currently holds 60 percent stake in the Shourouk Concession, which includes the Zohr field. Russia's Rosneft holds 30 percent, while British Petroleum (BP) holds ten.
The Italian company will take up 40 percent of the field’s output for the recovery of development and exploration costs.
Any excess production will be split between Egypt and Eni.
Egypt was a net exporter of LNG until 2014. However, the country became a net importer in recent years due to declining output and power shortages amid political turmoil.
In October, El-Molla announced that $27.3 million would be invested in three Egyptian natural gas fields – Zohr, North Alexandria, and Nooros – in the year 2018.
The three fields are expected to increase Egypt's natural gas output by 50 percent in 2018 and 100 percent in 2020, according to the ministry.