EGAS signed the deal with Total for gas exploration in the Nile Delta, a ministry statement said.

The government is keen to develop untapped finds to reduce its reliance on imports but has struggled to persuade companies to invest in the biggest finds, which are offshore, because the amount it pays them barely covers the investment costs.

Economic turmoil has also caused the government to fall into arrears with existing producers.

The oil ministry said last month that Egypt had repaid $2.1 billion of its debt to foreign energy firms as it seeks to restore confidence and encourage investment. It still owes $3.1 billion.

Source: CNBC Africa