Italy's Eni finds largest natural gas field off Egypt coast

Italian energy group Eni said it had discovered one of the world's largest natural gas fields off Egypt's coast.

According to the company, the area was 1,450 m (4,757 feet) beneath the surface and covered 100 sq km (39 sq miles).

Eni said the field could hold as much as 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, or 5.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

The Zohr field "could become one of the world's largest natural-gas finds" and help meet Egypt's gas needs for decades, Eni said.

"This historic discovery will be able to transform the energy scenario of Egypt," said Claudio Descalzi, chief executive of Eni.

Eni, the biggest foreign energy firm in Africa  has full concession rights to the area.

An energy exploration deal worth $2 billion which the company signed with Egypt's oil ministry allows the company to explore in Sinai, the Gulf of Suez, the Mediterranean and areas in the Nile Delta.

The discovery comes after several others in the Mediterranean in recent years, including by Egypt's neighbour Israel.

Egypt said that the initial investment in the mega gas field would amount to about $3.5 billion.

"I estimate Italian Eni investments to extract natural gas discovered yesterday will be about $3.5 billion," Khaled Abdel Badie, head of state gas company EGAS, told Reuters.

According to Eni, the field could help meet Egypt's gas needs for decades to come.

Eni SpA has been llooking to sell around 15 per cent stake in its lucrative Area 4 natural gas field in Mozambique for around $1.5 billion. (See: Eni SpA plans to sell 15% in natural gas field in Mozambique for $1.5 bn).