A consortium of Ireland’s Petroceltic and Italy’s Edison has been awarded two blocks in Egypt’s natural gas exploration licensing round.

The pair have signed on to explorate the North Thekah and South Idku blocks, which were auctioned by state-owned Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (Egas).

Egas put up 15 blocks in the Mediterranean and Nile Delta for auction on 13 February.

The North Thekah block, known as Block-7, is located offshore the Nile Delta. Petroceltic holds a 50 per cent stake in the concession, which will be operated by Edison for an initial term of three years. The work programme commitment includes the acquisition of 1,500 square kilometres of 3D seismic data.

The South Idku block, known as Block-1, is located onshore in the Nile Delta. Here, Petroceltic is the operator and holds a 75 per cent interest. The work commitment comprises the acquisition of 2D/3D seismic data, and two exploration wells.

The licences are expected to be formally awarded in late 2013 following ratification and finalisation of the production-sharing contracts.

A total of eight blocks have been awarded out of the 15 auctioned. UK oil major BP was awarded two of the blocks and Sharjah-based Dana Gas was awarded one block, although the details have not been announced.

Despite considerable reserves, Egypt is suffering from a shortage of gas due to increasing domestic consumption, which has meant it has had to look to imports.