Tarek El-Molla, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, said that the rumors about international oil companies (IOCs) halting exploration expenditures because of indebtedness and low oil prices is completely untrue. Proof positive of this was the fact that IOCs had not stopped work when the sum owed them was $6.3b, Egypt Oil & Gas reports.

The minister made these remarks at a press conference yesterday during his tour of the Belayim Petroleum Company (Petrobel) fields in Abu Radis in South Sinai.

He added that global prices had nothing to do with exploration since every country and area had its own cost structure. He said that Egypt enjoys very low production cost per barrel. Foreign investment inflows were also expected to reach $ 8.5b in fiscal year 2015-2016.

He clarified that it was perfectly normal for a company to review its priorities, something that concerns us mutually, with development projects continuing unabated, adding that the petroleum sector was paying its outlying debts as expected.

In a similar vein EGPC Chairman, Mohammed Al-Masry, insisted that the price for the gas extracted from the Zohr field was linked to a formula that left $4/ Btu as the minimum price, and $5.88 as the maximum price when the price of a barrel of oil reached a $100 in global markets.

He added that the Ministry of Petroleum had sent an official letter of notification to Italy’s Eni that it would not be allowed to export any quantities of gas produced from the Zohr field.

Al-Masry explained that the agreement stipulates that all gas pumped from the Zohr field will go to the domestic market. That being said, if a surplus remains after domestic consumption, exports become allowable.

He noted that production would start in 2017, at a rate of 1bcf/d, adding that the agreement includes increasing production to 2.7bcf/d in 2019.

Seismic surveys were originally expected to be completed with 18 months, he said, but with the Zohr discovery the process was accelerated.

Gas reserves discovered in Egyptian territorial waters, the deep-water regions, reach 30tcf.