Cairo this week both launched two wide-ranging bid rounds for a total of 23 blocks spanning the Western and Eastern Deserts, Gulf of Suez and Red Sea, and awarded four blocks from the previous bid round launched by state gas firm Egas in late December (MEES, 6 January).

Awards from the latter were distinctly underwhelming given that twelve blocks, six onshore and six offshore, had initially been put on offer. Eni was the big winner, taking three of the four blocks offered up in Egypt’s ‘traditional’ Mediterranean offshore area. Lackluster bid participation came as some firms favored direct negotiation with Cairo for offshore acreage: US major ExxonMobil has recently taken two deepwater blocks via this route, while compatriot and fellow major Chevron remains in talks for adjacent acreage. Key operators UK major BP and Italy’s Eni have also been recently awarded blocks outside of bid rounds (MEES, 10 February). (CONTINUED - 2224 WORDS)