Egypt last month awarded five large exploration blocks in its Western Desert oil heartland. Shell, a company that had long stalled on Egypt investment signaled that “we’re back” by taking three, with Italy’s Eni also snagging acreage (MEES, 15 February). Both companies have trumpeted major recent success in targeting new deeper formations, holding out the prospect of future output gains.

The ‘Western Desert’, essentially the vast swathe of Egypt between the River Nile and the Libyan border (see map), produced 360,000 b/d of oil (318,000 b/d crude, 42,000 b/d condensate) for 2018. The region’s share of Egypt’s overall oil output hit a record 56% last year, up from 44% at the start of the decade – though this is partly the result of falling output elsewhere (see chart 1). (CONTINUED - 2225 WORDS)