Egypt’s ambitious plan to achieve oil self-sufficiency within reach

An oil tanker sits offshore in the San Francisco Bay Area, the United States, April 26, 2020. More than 30 oil tankers carrying over 20 million barrels of crude oil are parked between Long Beach and the San Francisco Bay Area. (Photo by Li Jianguo/Xinhua)
(Photo by Li Jianguo/Xinhua)

by Marwa Yahya

The Egyptian plan to achieve self-sufficiency in all oil and gas products between 2021 and 2023 is generally within reach for the most populous Arab country despite some difficulties, especially when new discoveries of crude oil are expected to be made in the future, oil analysts said.

Egypt is currently relying on imports to meet a great part of its needs for crude oil, said Ramadan Aboulela, a professor of oil engineering with Alexandria University.

On Aug. 29, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi inaugurated a petrol production expansion project at Alexandria National Refining and Petrochemicals Company as part of the ambitious self-sufficiency plan. The project is expected to add 700,000 tons of petrol per year to the national production.

Egypt has so far carried out a series of oil refining projects that have helped reduced the annual imported gas by 50 percent to about 1.5 million tons compared to four years ago, according to Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tareq Al-Mulla.

The country is “on the right path by carrying out the oil self-sufficiency plan,” said Medhat Youssef, former chairman of Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation, noting the national plan isn’t only associated with establishing refinery labs but focuses on improving consumption, the network of pipelines and the warehouses across the country.

In addition, the government has been seriously working on replacing the oil products by natural gas, a step that will reduce the annual consumption rate of the petroleum derivatives, Youssef said, citing that natural gas has been used instead of diesel in the electricity-generating stations.

In fact, Egypt has already achieved self-sufficiency of natural gas with the discovery and operation of Zohr offshore gas field and started to export the surplus in 2019.

Meanwhile, former Egyptian Petroleum Minister Osama Kamal expected new discoveries to be announced soon after the government’s opening of new areas for drilling.

Egypt has taken several other measures for its self-sufficiency plan like correcting the pricing system, providing natural gas for homes and encouraging the cars’ owners to use natural gas, Kamal said.

According to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, a package of projects worth 7.5 billion U.S. dollars has been implemented in the past three years, while more than 63 billion dollars have been allocated for carrying on 159 oil projects, according to a cabinet statement.

Egypt is expected to sign 12 agreements with major companies to explore oil and gas in the eastern and western Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the western Sahara Desert, according to the Ministry of Petroleum.

Nearly 82 deals were concluded between the government and investors from July 2014 until this January for drilling 340 wells, with the minimum investment estimated at 16 billion dollars.

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