CAIRO: The Ministry of Petroleum is considering whether to import natural gas from Iraq to cover local demand, Minister Sameh Fahmy reportedly told the energy committee of the ruling National Democratic Party last week.
Sources said that Fahmy told the committee that the Iraqi gas could flow through the pipeline that Egypt currently uses to export its own natural gas to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, known as the Arab pipeline.
The minister also said that to import gas now would be to take advantage of the current drop in world prices of natural gas, and that it would be used to service the energy needs of heavy industries such as steel, cement and fertilizer factories.
Fahmy’s comments were met with criticism from groups opposed to the export of Egyptian gas at low prices. These groups have long argued that exporting the gas equaled a deficit in covering the demand of the local market and Fahmy’s comments will only confirm their view.
The popular campaign against the export of Egyptian gas responded to Fahmy’s comments in a statement released to the press, stating that the ministry had papered over the cracks too long.
It said, “Has the minister finally awakened to the tragedy of the wasting of Egypt’s petroleum resources after his ministry and the treasury failed to plug the dangerous holes in their sinking ship?
The campaign criticized Fahmy for not listening to the many experts who had previously stated that the rate of exportation of Egyptian gas would lead to a situation where internal demand would not be met.
“The petroleum ministry exports gas at very low prices when it should have been used domestically to create electricity but instead imports petroleum at very high prices to do this, the statement read, “Egypt is no longer an exporter of oil and gas as you claim and the exportation of our gas was a catastrophic decision.
A market analyst told Daily News Egypt that Fahmy’s proposal would only work if Egypt was exporting its natural gas at prices that are higher than the cost of importing, which would not be the case according to those who oppose exportation.
“It would be a good idea to import the gas cheaply from Iraq and lock in at that price for the future if Egypt has the view that gas prices will go up in the long term, the analyst added.
Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that Fahmy proposed using the refinery in the Damietta free zone to process the imported gas from abroad, to take advantage of the refinery’s capabilities.