The Egyptian government will sign no new contracts to export natural gas until the end of 2010 or until it thinks that world prices have stabilised, a senior official said.
Shamil Hamdi, first undersecretary at the Ministry of Petroleum, told a parliamentary committee that the ban on new contracts would not affect the share of Egyptian natural gas due to foreign companies working in the country.
Opposition parties have been on the offensive against the government’s gas contracts this year, saying Egypt receives prices far below current world prices.
The government says it has already renegotiated the price that France and Spain pay and was in talks on the price of gas to be sold to Israel, its most controversial customer. The government has not released the contracts for public scrutiny.
Hamdy said: “We are suspending new contracts until world prices stabilise and we have a clear picture of the future of the markets.” Negotiations on the terms of all existing contracts continue, the official added.
Gas experts say that the Egyptian government has little surplus natural gas for which it could sign new contracts. It has already made commitments to dedicate much of its gas to existing customers or to domestic industries.