The first oil field was discovered in Egypt in 1869 and it came into production in 1910. At this time, Anglo-Egyptian Oilfields (a joint venture between BP and Shell) was the major operator in the area and continued exploration and development until it was nationalised in 1964. In 1962 EGPC was formed and became the major operator in the form of joint ventures with foreign companies.
Energy plays an important role in Egypt’s economy with Egypt being a net exporter of oil. Net exports of crude oil and petroleum products have declined in recent years, higher prices on world markets have pushed Egypt’s oil revenues upward. The country also began exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from its first terminal in January 2005, adding another hard currency revenue stream, which is set to expand in late 2005 with the completion of the second LNG export terminal.
Egypt’s government plans to accelerate its program for the privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), though to date, the privatization program has moved slowly because of large SOE debt and severe overstaffing (layoffs are still difficult due to labor regulations). In recent years, the private sector percentage of overall Egyptian GDP has been growing by around 1.5 percent per year, with about 40 percent of Egypt’s SOE’s having been privatized since 1994. The Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) and the new natural gas entity, Egypt Gas (EGAS), remain off limits.
Egypt’s overall oil production has been declining more slowly than in the Gulf of Suez fields, due to new output from independent producers like Apache and Seagull Energy at smaller fields, especially in the Western Desert and Upper Egypt. Crude oil production in the Qarun block in southern Egypt reached around 60,000 bbl/d by early 2000, but has since fallen to 34,000 bbl/d. Apache and Seagull have developed the Beni Suef IX field in the East Beni Suef concession in Upper Egypt, which produces over 5,000 bbl/d. The field is said to contain around 100 million barrels of crude oil. Apache and Seagull also have developed the Wadi El-Sahl field in the South Hurghada block, which is producing around 20,000 bbl/d. A joint venture between EGPC and Agip also is producing about 40,000 bbl/d from an area in the Qattara Depression in the Western Desert, in the Meleiha and West Razzaq blocks. Khalda Petroleum, a joint venture between Apache and EGPC, produces around 50,000 bbl/d in the Western Desert in the Khalda and East Bahariyya areas.
Other oilfields are located in the area bordering Libya known as the Western Desert which accounts for 16% of production, in the Sinai Peninsula (5%), in the Eastern Desert (3%) and offshore Port Said on the Mediterranean coast. Until the first major discovery in the Western Desert in 1966, activity was almost exclusively centred on the Gulf of Suez region. After this, exploration increased in the Western Desert area which became the site of most discoveries during the 1980’s.
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