Egypt will increase its natural gas production to between 5.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) and 6 Bcf/d by the end of 2019, up from the current production of 3.9 Bcf/d, Oil Minister Tarek El Molla said on May 22.

Once an energy exporter, Egypt has turned into a net importer because of declining oil and gas production and increasing consumption. It is trying to speed up production at recent discoveries to fill its energy gap as soon as possible.

Egypt currently has 12 natural gas field development projects underway worth a total of $33 billion in investment, Molla said, speaking at the inauguration of a fertilizer plant in the port city of Damietta.

The three largest projects, which include the mammoth Zohr gas field in the Mediterranean, discovered by Italy's Eni last year, are expected to collectively bring 4.6 Bcf/d of gas online by the start of 2019, Molla said.

Recent discoveries and increased production could help the country save precious hard currency as it deals with an acute dollar shortage.

Egypt now spends $795 million per month on imports to meet its energy needs, about $250 million-$300 million of which is dedicated to natural gas, he said.

Egypt is also looking to rent its third floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) by the second quarter of 2017, he added.

The FSRUs let the energy-starved country import LNG and convert it to natural gas to feed its power grid, which in past years has been affected by blackouts during peak summer consumption months.

"With the arrival of the third regasification unit, Egypt's total imports of natural gas will reach 2 billion cubic feet per day," Molla said.

Egypt currently imports between 1 Bcf/d and 1.1 Bcf/d of LNG.