Eni's discovery of potentially the world's largest natural-gas field off the Egyptian coast will be a gamechanger for Egypt and the Mediterranean in terms of energy stability, the CEO of the Italian energy giant told CNBC on Monday.
On Sunday, Eni said in a press release that it had discovered a "supergiant" gas field that could hold "a potential of 30 trillion cubic feet of lean gas in place." It said the discovery well was located off Egypt's Mediterranean coastline at a depth of 1,450 metres with the prospective Zohr field covering an area of about 100 square kilometres (60 square miles).
Eni said that the discovery could satisfy Egypt's natural gas demand for "decades".
On Monday, Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Eni, told CNBC: "It is changing the game for Egypt…It is very important for Egypt, but also for the Mediterranean in terms of stability."
Descalzi could not give a timeline for when the gas might hit the market, but said developments would be quick as the gas field was in close proximity to Eni's processing facilities.
"It is close to the facilities so the time to market will be very good… that is part of our strategy to…continue to do our exploration in the mature area where we have a deep geographical knowledge and we can take advantage of our facilities and that will make the unit cost in terms of capital very positive," the CEO said.
"I don't want to put a date now but it is a question of a few years to have production—then a full production, that will be a very quick fast track development," Descalzi added.
Energy price concern?
State-backed Eni has market capitalization of around 54 billion euros ($61 billion) and is the biggest foreign producer in Africa. It has operated in Egypt for more than 60 years through its Egyptian subsidiary IEOC and is one of the main energy producers in the country, with a daily output of 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent.
In June, it signed an energy exploration deal with Egypt's oil ministry worth $2 billion following an memorandum of understanding signed in March during an investment conference, allowing the Italian major to explore in Sinai, the Gulf of Suez, the Mediterranean and areas in the Nile Delta.
Eni operating in what is a tough environment for energy companies with a low and volatile oil price. Earlier this year, the Italian firm cut its dividend and said it would cut investments by 17 percent in the 2015 to 2018 period.
However, Descalzi expressed confidence on Monday in response to questions about the commodity price slide and Iran coming back to the markets.
"This type of discovery…is another positive response to this kind of low price environment," the CEO told CNBC.
"Gas has a big future because of the environmental constraints. The new environmental targets for emission will give gas more power because renewable with gas will be the future in terms of the sustainability of our energy system. I'm very positive on the gas market," he added.