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Egypt's gas transmission strategy

With natural gas from the super-giant Zohr field now flowing ashore, plans are in place to make distribution of the fuel more efficient and to expand wind power

For the Egyptian government, 20 December 2017 was a red-letter day. It was when Eni produced first gas from the Zohr field 190km (118 miles) from the coast. Zohr is by far the biggest natural gas discovery in the Eastern Mediterranean, with estimated reserves of 30 trillion cubic feet. The arrival of Zohr gas ashore—at an initial rate of 350m cubic feet a day, rising to 1.2bn cf/d under Phase 1—is a major factor in the Egyptian government's decision to phase out liquefied natural gas imports during the course of this year and prepare for the restart of exports.

But the priority for the Egyptian authorities is to make sure that domestic demand for gas is satisfied—in particular for power generation. Nothing is more calculated to stoke social unrest than lengthy power cuts in Cairo and other overcrowded cities during the stiflingly hot summer months.

Zohr and other major finds are part of the answer. But another is a drive to make the distribution of gas more efficient. With this aim in mind, the government has negotiated a $200m loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company and its subsidiary Egyptian Natural Gas Company will spend the money on modernising selected gas infrastructure to improve energy efficiency and reduce harmful environmental impacts.

According to the EBRD, the project will involve "recovering waste heat from gas turbines used to drive gas compressors. The recovered heat will be used to produce additional energy, which will drive new electric compressors and replace fuels on site". Egypt's petroleum minister Tarek El Mollah said the European bank would also provide technical assistance in upgrading gas metering systems throughout the transmission network. He added that the programme would "promote the participation of the private sector" in gas transmission. Last year, President Sisi signed into law new gas sector legislation opening the way for private-sector involvement.

Aside from the focus on gas, Egypt is also pressing ahead with the expansion of renewables. One of the latest plans is for a vast new wind farm to be set up in the Gulf of Suez. A consortium of Egyptian, French and Japanese firms will build and operate a 250-megawatt facility close to Ras Ghareb. The consortium will then sell electricity to the state grid. The project will help the government achieve its goal of raising wind-power capacity from today's 750MW to 7 gigawatts by 2022.

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