Officials trade blame for power shortages

As extended electricity cuts plunge households and businesses across Egypt into darkness for hours each day, officials appear eager to make sure that blame for the power crisis is not cast at their feet.

On Monday, Al-Borsa news reported that, according to unnamed sources, electricity production has been hurt by poor quality fuel, an allegation that places responsibility on the Petroleum Ministry rather than the Ministry of Electricity. 

According to claims published in Al-Borsa, the poor quality fuel, some of it imported, has resulted in low productivity and an increased need for maintenance in power plants.

Al-Borsa’s source also claimed that power plants are currently receiving 70 percent of the natural gas produced in Egypt, leading to a shortage of fuel for industry and causing many factories to halt production.

The source also claimed that power plants need 125 million cubic meters of gas or the equivalent amount of liquid fuel, but are receiving only around 116 million cubic meters, putting them at a deficit of around eight million cubic meters per day, up from seven million cubic meters last month.

Meanwhile, again according to Al-Borsa, Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker claimed in a memorandum to the Cabinet that the fuel deficit is equivalent to 11 million cubic meters of gas per day, and that inferior quality fuel oil supplied by the Ministry of Petroleum is causing frequent breakdowns at power stations.

Shaker also reportedly cited attacks and acts of sabotage against electricity facilities as a cause of blackouts, echoing claims previously made by officials, including Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb. 

On Tuesday, Petroleum Authority Vice President Amr Mostafa took to Al-Borsa to respond to the claims made in the previous day’s article. 

According to Mostafa, the Oil Ministry is providing power plants with the equivalent of 117 million cubic meters of natural gas, 70 percent of which is given in the form of natural gas and 30 percent of which is mazut fuel oil. Moreover, Mostafa emphasized that the mazut supplied by his ministry is produced in Egypt and is fully in compliance with Egypt’s official standards.

Egypt’s power troubles date back to before the revolution, but the problem has deteriorated sharply in the last two years. Local natural gas production has declined, due to a combination of natural decreases in well productivity and a reluctance on the part of multinational energy companies to invest in further exploration and production.

Despite extended negotiations to secure a floating import terminal, Egypt remains without the capacity to import liquid natural gas.

Meanwhile, the demand for power is increasing, especially in the summer when high temperatures see business and residential consumers switching on air conditioners.

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