* Awards licences for 11 out of 15 oil blocks
* Shell, TransGlobe named as biggest winners
* Foreign oil firms say some progress on oil debts
By Emma Farge and Maha El Dahan
VIENNA/ABU DHABI, Nov 8 Royal Dutch Shell
, RWE and TransGlobe Energy have won
concessions in Egypt's first licensing round since the 2011
revolution in a sign that international oil firms are undeterred
by a payment backlog of billions of dollars.
The biggest winners were Canada's TransGlobe with four
concessions and Shell with three concessions in the western
desert including one via an Egyptian joint venture, the
companies said this week.
"We had a total of 15 blocks but we only received offers for
11 of them and so that is what ended up being awarded," an
official from the state-owned Egyptian General Petroleum
Corporation which offered the blocks told Reuters.
The EGPC official, who declined to be named, had previously
said a total of 25 offers were received for the various blocks.
The relatively high level of interest from international
firms will likely come as a relief to Egypt which in September
owed at least $3 billion to foreign oil firms.
Egypt is a significant gas producer, with much of the output
consumed locally, and a net importer of oil.
"We are continuing to invest and Egypt is continuing to find
ways to make payments to us," said Albert Gress, vice president
of business development at TransGlobe Energy, on the sidelines
of the North Africa Oil and Gas Summit in Vienna.
He added that the company could start producing in the new
blocks in 2014.
The EGPC official confirmed the TransGlobe and Shell awards
and added that RWE, Apache Corp, Dana Petroleum
and Greece's Vegas were also awarded one block each.
The results for the EGPC tender come around seven months
after the closing date for bids. That date had been delayed to
March 29 from Jan. 30 to allow more companies to take part.
Economic turmoil since a popular uprising unseated Hosni
Mubarak last year has stretched Egypt's finances, resulting in a
backlog of payments to oil producers and driving up premiums for
But oil executives told Reuters that the backlog had started
to clear, although some concerns remained.
"We are owed about $120 million and $90 million of that
could be considered overdue. This is down about 25 percent from
the worst period," said Brian O'Cathain, Chief Executive Officer
of Petroceltic International - a partner of Dana Petroleum in
its new block in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula.
He added that EGPC had also offered foreign producers
cargoes of oil products to meet their payments.
"For TransGlobe, we set a target of collections for 2012 and
they are very much in line to meet that target," said
TransGlobe's Gress. "Our oil is an export grade which is
important source of foreign currency for Egypt so we have mutual
interest in growing our production," he added.
TransGlobe currently pumps around 18,000 barrels per day in
the country, including the Ras Gharib export grade.
Another state-owned firm, the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding
Company (EGAS) said on Tuesday it had postponed by three months
the closing date for international companies to present bids for
its 15 oil and gas concessions on offer.
The deadline was pushed back to Feb. 13 from Nov. 14 with
the oil minister citing weak interest as one of the reasons for