The first exploration agreement was signed with a group led by the US’ Devon Energyand including Japan’s Teikoku Oil Companyand Australia’s Santos. The licence covers the exploration for oil in the 4,901-square-kilometre North Qarun block in the Gindi basin of the Western desert. Devon holds a 50 per cent stake in the venture and is the operator. Teikoku and Santos each hold 25 per cent (MEED 1:7:05).

A joint venture between Devon and Teikoku also signed a second agreement to carry out exploration in the 446-square-kilometre South October block in the Gulf of Suez. Devon holds a 65 per cent interest in the venture and Teikoku the remaining 35 per cent.

A third agreement was concluded with the UK’s Burren Energy. The company will explore the 242-square-kilometre North Hurghada Marine block in the southern Gulf of Suez (MEED 13:5:05).

The fourth deal was signed with a joint venture of IPR Energy Red Sea, a subsidiary of the US’ IPR Group of Companies, and India’s ONGC Videsh. The team has the licence to explore for oil in a 290-square-kilometre area of the North Ramadan oil field in the Gulf of Suez. ONGC has a 70 per cent stake in the joint venture, which will invest about $20 million in exploration. EGPC has retained the rights to explore a 10-square-kilometre segment of the block (MEED 4:3:05).

The Petroleum Ministry signed a fifth agreement with IPR, amending an existing contract between the US firm and EGPC, both of which are 50:50 joint venture partners in the local Western Desert Operating Petroleum Company (WEPCO). The joint venture is involved in oil exploration at the Alamein field and is the only concession in the country operating under a cost sharing agreement.

In late July, Japan’s Arabian Oil Company (AOC)completed formalities with EGPC relating to the exploration and development of the Northwest October block. Under the agreement, which will cover oil and gas exploration, AOC plans initial production of about 6,000 barrels a day of crude starting in the second half of 2007. First exploration work in the block, which is located in the Gulf of Suez, is due to begin within weeks. AOC was selected for the exploration licence by EGPC in February with several other companies (MEED 25:2:05).