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EGYPT - The Western Desert.

The deep Mediterranean Sea area off Egypt's Western Desert could overtake the Nile Delta as the most prolific gas province in this country. There, trends extending from the Western Desert's Cretaceous and Jurassic are of major interest to foreign companies, including the majors like BP Amoco, Shell, Agip and British Gas (BG Int'l).

The Western Desert and its offshore areas already account for about 76% of Egypt's total gas production. This total now averages about 2,300 MCF/day and should exceed 2,800 MCF/day in the first half of 2000. It will be over 3,000 MCF/day by end-2000 and should more than double by 2015, with exports by pipeline and in LNG form to make Egypt an important source of gas to the Mediterranean and Europe (see Part 3).

Shell, one of the top gas producers in Egypt and the leading gas player in the Western Desert, is particularly keen on its North-East Mediterranean Deep Marine (NEMDM) block. This is a 41,500 sq km tract, where water depths are 1,500-3,000 metres and its exploration costs are estimated at $230m. Shell believes this block will become a major source of gas for LNG export, with the first exploration well to be drilled from mid-2000.

This part of the Mediterranean and deep areas north of the Nile Delta (see OMT) are being studied by Wavetech Geophysical of Colorado in a non-exclusive regional seismic survey. Started in mid-1999, the survey is to include 2,925 km of high-fold, long-offset seismic data.

The northern onshore parts of the Western Desert, so far a mainly gas-prone province, are underlain by two east-west trending sub-basins containing thick Palaeozoic to Tertiary sediments. Oil and gas discoveries have been made in both sub-basins. Cretaceous sandstones and carbonates provide the reservoirs. Oil is sourced mostly from Jurassic shales. A Palaeozoic source, similar to those of Algeria and Libya, cannot be ruled out and the same source could be expected in the deep marine areas off the desert. The trapping mechanism onshore is primarily structural but there is also a stratigraphic component involving drape over pre-existing highs. Jurassic formations include the Ras Qattara and Khatatba.

Gas fields found both onshore and offshore in the Western Desert have proved to be large. Gas production there is rising rapidly, and the recent installation of infrastructure along the northern parts encourages further exploration in nearby areas. Major onshore gas discoveries have been made there in the past three years by Repsol (Khalda JV), Shell and others.

The giant Cretaceous/Jurassic Abu Al Gharadiq gas fields have been estimated by EGPC to contain 10 bn bls of oil equivalent, of which 1.5 bn bls oe have been proven and remaining proven reserves by end-1998 were put at 1.04 bn bls oe and cumulative production having reached 460m bls oe.

In the Khalda area, in the north-west of the Western Desert, Repsol has made a number of gas discoveries during the past four years and most of the gas/condensate finds have flowed from Ras Qattara and Khatatba formations. The Khalda area has important oilfields, which have made Repsol the third largest oil producer in Egypt.

In the Alamein region, south-west of El Hamra port, there are two trends of oil and gas fields which can become important: the Alamein-Razzak trend of five fields already discovered and more are likely to be found, and the parallel Alamein West Structural Ridge, where Apache of the US has identified 13 prospects. One of the latter prospects, Alamein West-1, flowed at 8,277 b/d of oil and 3.9 MCF/d of gas from three zones: a mid-zone which tested 6,547 b/d of 38 deg. API oil and 3 MCF/d of gas from a high-porosity and fractured Alamein dolomite formation 300 feet thick and at least half of it was believed to contain oil with no water; an upper-most zone which tested 1,066 b/d of oil and 500,000 CF/d of gas from the Dahab formation at depths of 8,832-8,842 ft; and the lowest zone which tested 664 b/d of oil and 400,000 CF/d of gas from an AEB-1 formation at depths of 9,324-9,340 ft. EGPC has estimated that the Alamein region contains about 7 bn bls oe of Jurassic oil and gas, of which 500m bls oe have been proven, with the first discovery there having begun production in 1968.

The Faghur Basin, a non-producing region of the Western Desert, is said to contain about 2 bn bls of recoverable oil and gas reserves in Palaeozoic formations. This is claimed by some EGPC executives.

North El Mesaha Trough, a frontier area in the far south-west of Egypt, is said to contain hydrocarbons. The whole trough has been allocated as a single tract, Block F, and has been on offer since 1997.

No interest has been expressed in Block F so far because it is very far from infrastructure and EGPC has not provided the all the necessary data. The block has been offered to any company willing to carry out geological and geophysical studies on the area in the first phase.
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Publication:APS Review Gas Market Trends
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Jan 3, 2000
Previous Article:VENEZUELA - The Political Leadership.
Next Article:EGYPT - The Oil Reserves.

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