Egypt keeps gas exports steady in 2010 amid low prices

Doha–Egypt's gas exports this year will be unchanged from 2009, as the low prices do not encourage further sales, the country's oil minister said on Wednesday.

Egypt expects to export 21 billion cubic meters (bcm), the same amount it sold abroad last year, Sameh Fahmy told reporters during his visit to Doha, capital of Qatar.

"We are maintaining our same position. This is not the best time to export our gas," Fahmy said.

In addition to low prices, rising local demand had pushed the government in 2008 to block any new gas export contracts until the end of 2010, when its due to review the moratorium.

A gas glut has put pressure on prices and is seen to continue for another 10 years despite rising demand, the International Energy Agency said last month.

"The market is not responding well to the gas industry, because the prices are very cheap…nobody is negotiating more contracts," said Fahmy.

For the time being there's reluctance to invest in expansion plans as price do not support further growth, said Fahmy.

"This is not a time to expand. The price is not reasonable for producers and now we are staring to produce expensive gas. It's not cheap," he said, adding that Egypt's production is year is around 65 bcm.

The country's exports mainly go to the United States, Europe and Levant region, said Fahmy.

"We did not have any cut back in orders because the prices are very low, so why should they cut back?"

Egypt has a total 77.3 tcf of proven gas reserves, according to BP, with much of it deepwater off the northern Mediterranean coast, making it the 15th biggest holder of gas in the world.

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