Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Tarek El Molla has been given the green light to contract several Egyptian companies to participate in exploration and production (E&P) activities, Egypt Oil & Gas reports.

The Egyptian cabinet approved the license, which will allow the ministry to work with the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company, the Italian Egyptian Oil Company (IEOC B.V), Tharwa Petroleum Company on E&P.

Participating companies will search for natural gas and crude oil in the Mediterranean Noor Concession, off the northern coast of the Sinai Peninsula.

The cabinet’s decision was issued in meeting number 119, chaired by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.

According to a preliminary agreement with the Ministry of Petroleum, IEOC and Tharwa Petroleum will spend $105 million over two phases, which will take six months and will include drilling one well in each of the two phases, Reuters reported El Molla as saying.

The drive to sign more E&P agreements comes as part of the oil sector’s strategy to boost the country’s oil and gas reserves, El Molla said after the cabinet meeting, according to the Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC).