ROME/TRIPOLI, Jan. 28 (Reuters) – Italian energy company Eni and Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) signed an $8 billion gas production deal on Saturday to boost Europe’s energy supply despite insecurity and political chaos in the North African region. country.
The deal, signed during a visit to Tripoli by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, aims to increase gas production for the Libyan domestic market and exports through the development of two offshore gas fields.
Production will begin in 2026 and reach a plateau of 750 million cubic feet per day, Eni said in a statement.
“This agreement will enable major investments in Libya’s energy sector, contributing to local development and job creation, while strengthening Eni’s role as a leading operator in the country,” said the CEO, Claudio Descalzi.
Meloni met with Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, head of the internationally recognized government of national unity (GNU) in Tripoli for talks that also focused on migration across the Mediterranean.
At a joint press conference with Descalzi, NOC chief Farhat Bengdara said the gas deal was for 25 years and called it the most significant new investment in Libya’s energy sector in a quarter of a century.
Over the past year, European countries have increasingly tried to replace Russian gas with energy supplies from North Africa and elsewhere because of the war in Ukraine.
Italy has already taken the lead in sourcing gas from Algeria, building a new strategic partnership there that includes investments to help state energy company Sonatrach reverse years of declining production.
However, agreements reached in Tripoli could be undermined by Libya’s internal conflict, which has divided the country between rival factions vying for control of the government and contesting each other’s claims to political legitimacy.
Underlining the uncertainty, Dbeibah’s own oil minister, Mohamed Oun, has rejected any deal NOC could make with Italy, saying in a video posted on the ministry’s website that such deals should be made by the ministry.
Eni’s Descalzi said the agreement also brings a carbon capture facility and solar energy.
NOC chief Bengdara was appointed last year by Dbeibah, whose own interim government was installed in 2021 through a UN-backed process.
The eastern-based parliament and factions supporting it said early last year that the government was no longer legitimate and rejected both Bengdara’s nomination and the deals Tripoli has made with foreign states.
Chaos in Libya since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising in which ousted autocrat Muammar Gaddafi left much of the country in the hands of armed factions.
In statements to the press, Dbeibah and Meloni said they had also discussed illegal migration from Libya to Italy, a topic Rome’s right-wing leader had placed at the center of her political campaigns during her takeover.
Italy will support Libya by providing new search and rescue vessels, Dbeibah said.
Insecurity and lawlessness have made Libya an important, albeit dangerous, route for migrants to reach Europe, often via Italy. Every year, hundreds of migrants die trying to make the journey.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, who oversees the migration issue for Rome, accompanied Meloni to Libya, as did Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani.
Reporting by Ayman al-Warfali in Libya and Gavin Jones in Rome; additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Enas Alashray in Cairo; writing by Angus McDowall and Gavin Jones; edited by Clelia Oziel
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