Italian oil and gas group Eni has denied media reports that it has made a major new discovery in Egypt.
Eni Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi said,”There are prospects and new (geological) structures in Egypt but we still haven’t discovered anything.”
He was commenting on the recent reports, including one in the Arab News which quoted a former Egyptian petroleum minister as saying Eni was about to announce another massive gas find.
Eni said last week it would begin drilling an exploratory well at its Noor field in Egypt’s North Sinai in two months.
In March, the Egyptian cabinet approved exploration plans, and Eni is to start preliminary drilling this summer. Only then will it become clear whether rumors that Noor holds even larger gas deposits than Zohr are true or false.
The discovery of Zohr in 2015, with at least 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in place, changed the complexion of Egypt’s energy sector. The field was brought on stream at record speed, and production from the offshore giant is helping to transform the country’s gas profile. Output is set to reach 2.7bn cubic feet a day by 2020.
In the political and economic changes created by the 2011 popular uprising, Egypt was forced to divert supplies away from its two liquefied natural gas plants, at Idku and Damietta, to meet the demands of the domestic market. Exports stopped, and Egypt even became an importer of LNG.
Now the authorities say they’ve just issued their last LNG tender, and by the end of this year, there’ll be no more imports. At some point in early 2019, the LNG plants will be back in operation, with exports resuming.
International firms, attracted by a generous gas sale price and the ease of connecting to well-tried infrastructure, are working frenetically to bring more onshore and offshore fields on stream. Eni, Shell, Edison and BP are among the IOCs to announce plans to expand activities. Not surprising, considering there’s estimated to be between 50 trillion and 150 trillion cf of gas yet to be discovered.
Recent developments in Egypt’s energy sector—including the liberalization of the country’s entire gas market—have been so dramatic that it would be unwise to dismiss out of hand any guesses about what the future might hold.