Egypt may stop importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Q4 2018 and start exporting it at the beginning of 2019, Bloomberg reported quoting Egypt’s oil minister Tarek El Molla.

El Molla said that the tender issued to cover Q3 2018 domestic consumption will be Egypt’s final tender as the country will be “imports-free” by the final three months of 2018.

“Local production should cover our needs,” El Molla stated, adding that Zohr and other gas fields will boost production and help to attract more foreign investment.

Egypt used to be a net gas exporter but the country’s consumption outweighed production for the first time in over a decade in 2015.

Eni discovered Zohr in August 2015, a field with estimated gas reserves of 850 billion cubic meters.

El Molla said that Zohr will boost gas production from 1.2 billion cubic feet to 1.7 billion cubic feet a day (bcf/d) by August 2018. In addition, Eni is planning to increase Zohr production to 2 bcf/d by the end of 2018. Currently, the country’s total output is 6 bcf/d and will increase to 6.5 bcf/d by September, El Molla added.

The oil ministry is planning to start compensating companies that have rights to operate the country’s LNG export terminals, including Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Union Fenosa SA when the country has sufficient surplus. “The first thing we will do once we have a surplus, we will supply our partners with some of those quantities,” El Molla stated.

“So many years have been passing without them getting the quantities they were supposed to receive so this is one of our priorities once we have a surplus.”

The petroleum minister added that the country expects to attract $10 billion of foreign investments into the oil and gas industry in 2018 and 2019.

He added that the country has adopted a flexible gas-pricing formula to encourage investment and increase supply. A regulatory authority was created two months ago and is now working on setting up a tariff system for private companies to use the state’s gas infrastructure and to license them to trade gas. The country previously paid a fixed price of $2.65 per thousand cubic feet, and the price now is in the range of $3 to $5.88, he explained.