Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Tarek El Molla, said that the oil sector in the country is currently implementing a new strategy, which will offer new bid rounds, conclude agreements with IOCs, step up foreign oil investments and the development of the existing and recently discovered fields, the ministry informed in a press release.

Speaking at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, US, Egypt’s Oil Minister added that the aim of the strategy is to secure and increase energy supplies at affordable prices, to diversify energy resources and to achieve sustainability through sector management reforms.

El Molla further outlined positive developments in the Egyptian petroleum industry in the last five years stating that the country signed 64 agreements with global oil companies since November 2013, pooling a total investment of $14.3b.

According to the press release, the minister also pointed out five major challenges that the country is currently facing – attracting new investments in the context of low oil prices, foreign currency reserves, arrears to IOCs, and the gap between energy supply and demand. On the other hand, he affirmed that Egypt has good prospects holding a strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea, which is of high importance, and which has attracted foreign companies willing to accelerate drilling in the area.

El Molla noted that the development of Egypt’s Zohr field was stepped up to aim for gas production within a short period of two years compared to a standard period of between six to eight years. The first phase production launch is expected at the end of 2017, with plans to reach total production of projected 2.7bcf/d of gas already by 2019.

Egypt’s minister concluded that in the next phase, Egypt will hold new offshore and onshore biddings in different geographic areas in order to accelerate the development of gas fields across the country that will contribute to increasing production. The plans come amid ongoing economic reforms that will allow the country to re-pay its dues to IOCs in the coming period.