CAIRO, June 12 (Reuters) - Egypt's oil minister said on Wednesday that natural gas production would increase by 500 million cubic feet daily by December, when several gas fields are due to come on stream.
Sherif Ismail was quoted by the website of Egypt's flagship Al-Ahram newspaper as saying that the expected increase would effectively be closer to 450 million cubic feet daily once natural attrition in well productivity is accounted for.
The boost would bring gas production to 5.2 billion cubic feet (bcf) per day by the end of December, Al-Ahram website quoted Ismail as saying.
That amount is lower than the 5.4 bcf/day the ministry forecasted for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
That forecast, released in February, saw gas production failing to meet surging domestic demand in the next fiscal year.
Ismail said the fields due to come on stream by the end of the year included Daka, Sapphire, and Libra, but did not name the firms developing the fields.
He said that Egypt is currently producing 680,000 barrels of oil and condensate per day.
Egypt's rapidly growing population and increasing dependence on natural gas due to artificially low subsidised prices have led to gas shortages and power cuts in recent years.
The growing population of 85 million and generous subsidies have kept demand increasing to the extent that Egypt has cut into exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) previously promised to foreign firms.
Egypt's energy prices are among the lowest in the world, and the cash-strapped government spends more than a fifth of its budget keeping them down.
Current account figures released by the central bank on Wednesday showed Egypt's spending on oil imports between January and March at $3.8 billion, almost $1 billion more than last year. Its revenues from oil exports declined to $2.7 billion from just over $3 billion in the same period.
Reporting By Maggie Fick; Editing by Bernard Orr