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Egypt’s hydrocarbon sector remains steady

Julia Simon Aug 30, 2011

Egypt’s hydrocarbon sector remains steady

Julia Simon Aug 30, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: While the E.U. eyes sanctions on Syrian oil imports, in Egypt the petroleum sector is one
of the few areas flourishing in the months since the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak. The economy’s been pretty dicey in Egypt, yeah.

Reporter Julia Simon has more from Cairo.

Julia Simon: The large blue iron gate opens as a few businessmen enter the Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum. Twenty-three-year-old lawyer Ali Mohammad Ibrahim is rushing on his way to the ministry.

Ali Mohammad Ibrahim: After the revolution, Egypt has changed and any person or company should be able to visit the minister.

Good luck, I tell him. The revolution hasn’t made Egypt’s oil and gas sectors any less busy.

Angus Blair of the Egyptian investment bank Beltone Financial says that’s no surprise.

Angus Blair: The hydrocarbon sector is probably the most immune to political change. Oil companies have seen change all over the world and they’re used to it.

About 15 percent of Egypt’s GDP comes from oil and gas, or about $31 billion a year. Since the revolution six months ago, investment in those sectors has held up, but other areas, like real estate and tourism, have seen sharp declines.

Tom Voytovich is the Egypt country manager for the Houston-based energy company, Apache Corporation.

Tom Voytovich: We’ve reached this pace of $1 billion a year and that works comfortably for us.

Apache is the largest American investor in Egypt, and just reported two new oil wells in Egypt’s western desert.

Voytovich: They would be the 12th and 13th discoveries we’ve made in the western desert in 2011.

Yet while most of Egypt’s oil and gas is used domestically, some is exported. And Egypt’s gas exports to Israel are hugely controversial. Angus Blair says since the revolution, the pipelines in the Sinai have been attacked five times.

Blair: It is of concern to a lot of people, not just the hydrocarbon sector, because it’s very important in terms of revenues for Egypt that the gas pipeline keeps flowing.

But Blair says the Egyptian government recently implemented a new strategy to protect its gas. They’re now paying Bedouin tribesmen to stand guard.

In Cairo, I’m Julia Simon for Marketplace.

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