Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla said in January Egypt was committed to repaying the $3.5 billion it owes in arrears to foreign oil companies but a foreign currency shortage has made the drawing down of those debts more difficult.
Egypt's foreign reserves rose to $26.363 billion at the end of January, but were still about $10 billion less than the reserves before an uprising in 2011 ushered in a period of political turmoil, scaring away tourists and foreign investors, key sources of hard currency.
Zohr, discovered by Eni in 2015, is the biggest gas field ever found in the Mediterranean with an estimated 850 billion cubic metres of gas in place.
Once a net gas exporter, Egypt turned into a major importer of LNG as growing demand outstripped production.
The field is expected to come into production at the end of the year and will save Egypt billions of dollars in hard currency that would otherwise be spent on imports.
(Reporting by Omar Fahmy; writing by Amina Ismail, editing by David Evans) ((email@example.com; +20 2 2394 8114;))
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