BP fires up first gas fields in $12 billion Egypt project

The BP Plc company logo sits on a sign outside the company’s headquarters in St. James’s Square in London, U.K., on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. BP Plc’s push to maximize profits and cut costs at the Macondo well was a “root cause” of the explosion that led to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a safety expert who studied the disaster said. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

BP has fired up two natural gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea near Egypt, the start of a $12 billion development expected to supply nearly a third of the African country’s gas in coming years.

The British oil company began producing gas from the Taurus and Libra fields off the coast of Egypt eight months ahead of schedule, the company said Wednesday. Its fields are producing more than 700 million standard cubic feet of gas a day and 1,000 barrels of condensate, 20 percent more than anticipated.

It’s the second of seven major projects the British oil company plans to turn on this year, part of an effort to lift its daily energy production by 800,000 barrels of oil equivalent by the end of the decade. In a statement, BP CEO Bob Dudley said these projects “demonstrate momentum and a return to growth across BP.”In Egypt, BP’s West Nile Delta development is expected to make up a quarter of the energy production it expects to bring online by 2020.

Related: BP discovers second big natural gas pocket in Egypt

Egypt’s growing population ballooned to 92 million late last year, pushing up energy demand in a country that only a few years ago suffered regular power blackouts because of a shortage of natural gas.

By 2019, gas production from BP’s Egyptian fields could reach 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas a day, about 30 percent of the country’s current output, it said. The company began sending gas from the Taurus and Libra fields to Egypt’s national gas grid in late March, and it recently ramped up production to a stable level.

Falling energy prices helped bring down the cost of supplies for the projects, BP said.

“Thanks to a clear focus on efficiency and capturing market deflation, this complex project has been delivered with lower capital levels compared to project sanction,” said Hasham Mekawi, North African regional president at BP, in a statement.

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