Egypt will invite international oil companies to participate in three oil and gas exploration rounds by the end of this year, the country’s oil minister said Tuesday. “Very soon I am going to issue three bid rounds,” Sameh Fahmy told Dow Jones Newswires on leaving a briefing by Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries members here. “It will be before the end of the year,” he added. Fahmy said the ministry will issue the bid rounds through three state-run companies, including Egyptian General Petroleum Corp., which handles oil exploration in all but the southern parts of Egypt. Bids will also be invited through Ganoub El Wadi Holding Petroleum Co., or Ganope, which is in charge of oil exploration in the south. The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Co. is set to receive bids for gas exploration contracts. Egypts has in the past awarded exploration contracts on a production sharing basis. Fahmy said that Egypt’s oil production, now at 650,000 barrels a day, would be raised by a daily rate of 100,000 barrels next year, or 15%. “We are expecting to increase production to 750,000 barrels a day next year, mostly from the Gulf of Suez and the Western Desert,” he said. Future new gas finds will first be directed to the local market, which is seeing fast-rising demand growth from domestic industries, before being used for new liquefied natural gas projects, Fahmy added. Plans to develop the downstream oil sector were also being developed. “Maybe four or five refineries are under assessment. We are talking about mega projects and smaller refineries,” he said. This includes plans to set up a large-scale integrated refinery and petrochemicals complex with India’s Reliance Industries Ltd. (500325.BY), Fahmy said. “We are also talking with several other companies, from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. They are private investors,” he added.