By Mahmoud Shaaban

Egypts Oil Minister Tarek el-Molla has signed Tuesday three oil and gas exploration agreements for 16 new fields in the Western Desert worth at least $81.4 million in total with Royal Dutch Shell and the U.S.-based Apex Oil Company.

According to the first deal, Shell will invest $35.5 million on northern Oum Baraka area in the Western Desert, the Petroleum Ministry said in a statement.

The second and third deals will see Apex, which is operating in Egypt for the first time, invest $26.5 million and $19.4 million on Southeast Maliha and west of Badr El Din, respectively.

"We are very pleased to finalize these Concession Agreements and officially establish Apex's foothold in Egypt.  We thank H.E. Eng. Tarek El Molla, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, for his support during this transaction and for encouraging investments like ours in Egypt's attractive oil and gas market. Roger B. Plank, founder and chief executive of Apex International Energy, said.

Egypt, which used to be a net energy exporter, has become a net importer in recent years as consumption has increased while production has fallen.

The government has been on a drive to lure back foreign investors to its energy sector in an effort to address a squeeze on public finances.

Amwal Alghad 2017