Egyptian state oil company EGPC this week awarded six of the 11 blocks that it had offered in a bid round launched in May. Of six Western Desert blocks on offer, five found takers. And they went to the key local producers Apache and Shell – who have existing production on neighboring blocks (see map) as well as Apex International, a US-based firm headed up by former Apache executives.

But of five Gulf of Suez blocks offered only one found a taker, with BP signing up for the ...