Adipec 2015: Egypt to triple LNG imports despite huge gasfield find

Egypt’s petroleum minister said the country would triple its liquefied natural gas imports over the next two years, despite hopes that new gas finds would turn the tide.

Tarek El Molla said on the sidelines at Adipec that the country would increase its LNG imports from 500,000 cubic feet per day to 1.5 million cu ft per day by 2017.

“First I have to satisfy my market and my needs, and you cannot have blackouts or factories that are closed because of a shortage of gas,” he said.

New offshore gas production had given hopes that the North African country would make a return as a gas exporter, particularly after the discovery of the vast Zohr gasfield announced three months ago. Italy’s Eni said that the prospect housed the possibility for 700 trillion cubic feet, potentially making it one of the world’s largest gasfields and driving “Egypt’s economy for decades”.

Eni said in August that there would be a “fast production start-up” as a result of existing infrastructure.

Mr El Mollo said that the gas was expected to begin trickling on to the market in two years, but there will be a gradual increase to maximum production. He declined to give figures as to when the field might reach peak production.

In addition to Zohr, the country’s offshore West Nile Delta is expected to come online and at maximum capacity – to produce 1.2 billion cu ft per day.

Yet Mr El Mollo said that Egypt’s rising demand coupled with a natural decline in ageing fields would continue to outstrip the local supplies. “And LNG is a quick fix,” he said.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Egypt’s domestic consumption increased by an annual average of 7 per cent in the 10 years through 2013, forcing the country to begin importing LNG this year.

And as a result of the gas shortage, the Spanish Egyptian Gas Company’s (Segas) LNG terminal in Damietta in the north-east has been inactive for three years.

The minister said that he was not sure when the terminal would come back online, but “discussions are ongoing”.

“We need to fully utilise our LNG plants currently available because it is an asset we need to operate, but before we do that – we must satisfy local demand,” he added.

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