Greece’s biggest oil refiner, Hellenic Petroleum (HELPE), has won a concession for oil exploration and production in Egypt’s West Obayed desert area, totaling 1,840 square kilometers, the company said in a statement. HELPE had submitted bids for two of the 13 areas in the round of concessions opened for bidding by the state-controlled Egyptian Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) last year. The West Obayed concession is a deposit of natural gas and concentrates and was also contested by Gas de France, ENI, Oil India and Petrobras. It is the first time that HELPE has undertaken exploration and production activity as an operator. A neighboring deposit operated by Shell is estimated at 1 trillion cubic feet. The Greek company’s contractual obligations for the first three years of the exploration period would include the conducting of seismic tests and three drills. The first is expected in June 2007. EGPC has invited HELPE to Cairo for final negotiations and the signing of the contract. Sources said the signing is expected on Friday, during a visit by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, who will hold talks on energy issues accompanied by officials of HELPE and the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA). Sioufas and the chairmen of HELPE, Timos Christodoulou, and of DEPA, Asimakis Papageorgiou, have also been discussing energy issues with officials in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain while accompanying President Karolos Papoulias on his current visit to these countries. In Saudi Arabia the talks focused on crude oil supplies to HELPE, while in Qatar – the world’s third-largest producer of natural gas after Russia and Iran – they centered on the procurement by DEPA of liquefied natural gas.