By Davide Barbuscia
ROME (Reuters) – Egypt sees increasing interest from U.S. energy companies in developing its offshore oil and natural gas resources and expects them to participate in two bidding rounds due before year-end, Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla said.
Egypt has emerged as an attractive destination for foreign energy firms following a string of major discoveries in recent years including the giant Zohr offshore field, which holds an estimated 30 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Molla said Egypt wanted to become a regional trading gas hub now it had achieved its goal of self-sufficiency, but would focus on meeting its existing commitments — including a contract to supply Jordan — once exports are resumed.
While declining to name potential bidders, Molla said there was “an increase in appetite from different American companies and we will see this in practical ways when the closing of the bidding rounds and submission of offers.”
“This will be the proof that they’re interested,” he said.
Molla, who met U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis Fannon in Cairo last week, said bidding for exploration and exploitation of gas and oil in offshore concession blocks in the Mediterranean under state-run importer EGAS was due to close on Nov. 29.
A second bidding round for concession areas in the Red Sea is scheduled to open before the end of the year, he added.