Tarek El-Molla, Egypt's Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources (Reuters)
Egypt's debts to foreign oil companies have dropped to their lowest levels since 2010 and the government will fully pay them back by the end of 2019, Egypt's Petroleum minister Tarek El-Molla said in a televised press conference on Thursday.
The country's debts to foreign companies stood at $1.3 billion in 2010 but surged to $6.3 billion in 2012, according to the minister.
However, the government has been steadily repaying its debts to foreign companies over the past five years, bringing totals down to $1.2 billion in the fiscal year 2017-2018 which ended in June, El-Molla explained.
El-Molla said the drop in debts has significantly helped the country to draw foreign investments in the oil sector and led to new oil and gas explorations and discoveries in the Mediterranean and the Western and Eastern deserts.
The new discoveries include the mammoth offshore Zohr natural gas field, which was discovered in the Mediterranean by the Italian oil giant Eni in 2015.
Zohr is believed to contain an estimated 30 trillion cubic feet per day, making it the largest ever natural gas field to be discovered in the Mediterranean.
Pumping operations in the field started in December 2017.
El-Molla explained that Egypt aims to double production from the field, which started in December 2017, from the current 1.2 billion cubic feet per day (bcf per day) to 2 bcf per day by the end of this year.
Egypt has set 1 October and 8 October 2018 deadlines for two major international tenders for oil and gas exploration, spanning 27 onshore and offshore blocks.
Bids for 11 blocks offered by the Egyptian General Petroleum Corp (EPGC) must be submitted by 1 October.
Companies interested in 16 concession areas offered under state-buyer EGAS must submit their bids by 8 October.
The EPGC tenders include five blocks in the Western Desert, two in the Nile Valley, three in the Gulf of Suez and one in the Eastern Desert.
The EGAS tender, described by the ministry as the largest in the company’s history, includes 13 offshore Mediterranean blocks and three in the Nile Delta.