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Italian company discovers massive gas find off Egyptian coast: Report

Find would cement country's 'gas hub' dreams and casts doubt over $15bn deal to import Israeli gas announced in February
The Noor field is reportedly three times larger than the largest field ever found off Egypt's coast (AFP)

An Italian energy company has reportedly discovered a gas field off the Egyptian coast three times larger than one found in 2015 which was described as the largest ever found in the Mediterranean.

According to Egyptian Ministry of Oil officials cited in an Egyptian Independent report, Rome-based ENI will soon announce the Noor field find in the North Sinai Shorouk concession.

Noor is reportedly triple the size of the Zohr field, found by ENI in 2015, which was so substantial that, after years of importing gas and along with the country's other finds, Egypt is now expected to have a gas surplus as early as next year.

The new discovery would cement Egypt’s plans to become a regional gas hub, only a couple of years after energy supply shortages made blackouts a daily experience for many Egyptians.

It will also raise doubts over a deal announced in February that would see $15bn worth of Israeli gas exported to Egypt over the next decade.

Egypt’s Petroleum Minister Tarek El-Molla told Bloomberg late last week that the country might stop importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) by the end of the year, but did not mention any new discoveries.

“The exports of Zohr gas field, as well as other gas fields’ production, will start early next year,” El-Molla said. “I don’t think there will be more tenders. I think this is it. Local production should cover our needs.”

'Bottom line is Egypt will have plenty of gas for its own needs, and probably for export'

- David Butter, Chatham House MENA programme associate fellow 

In March, ENI announced that it was selling a 10 percent stake in the Shorouk concession to Mubadala Petroleum, an arm of Mubadala Investment Company group, one of Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth funds.

The sale, reportedly valued at $934m, was finalised last week.

Other stakeholders include BP and Russian state-run oil giant Rosneft. 

Reports of the find saw Israeli energy stocks fall on Wednesday as analysts said the $15bn deal between Israeli company Delek Drilling and Texas-based Noble Energy to supply Israeli gas to Egyptian company Dolphinus Holdings looks shaky.

Earlier this month, Delek announced that it would hold a special shareholders' meeting on 1 July to decide whether to invest in East Mediterranean Gas (EMG) which operates an underwater pipeline that runs between Israel and Egypt. Securing a transportation route had been seen as one obstacle holding up the deal.

On Wednesday, Delek Group Ltd (DLEKG) was down by 5.79 percent and Delek Drilling LP (DEDR.L) was down by 5.01 percent on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange at closing.

“Bottom line is Egypt will have plenty of gas for its own needs, and probably for export,” David Butter, an associate fellow in the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, told Middle East Eye on Wednesday.

“Anyone wanting to sell into the market will have to compete on price, which would appear to be a tall order."

An ENI spokesman on Wednesday said the company never comments on rumour or speculation.