A new super-giant natural gas field could prove to be the largest ever discovered on earth and also end up satisfying energy demand in parts of the Middle East and the Mediterranean for decades to come.
Italian energy firm Eni made the find off the northern Egyptian coast. According to the company, there could be as much as 30 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Zohr field – equivalent to 5.5 billion barrels of oil. The field covers around 100 square kilometres and is approximately 1,450 metres below ground.
“Zohr is the largest gas discovery ever made in Egypt and in the Mediterranean Sea and could become one of the world’s largest natural-gas finds,” said Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi. Egypt’s petroleum industry confirmed the find in a statement. However, the true size of the find won’t be known for certain until drilling begins.
The discovery, which could contribute to Egypt’s energy mix for “decades,” could also help the country break a potential over-reliance on the Persian Gulf States and other OPEC nations. Some of the output could also be shipped to Italy and other Mediterranean countries. OPEC nations are taking a big financial hit thanks to the dramatic fall in the price of oil and an explosion in the use if shale gas.
If initial reports turn out to be accurate, the field could amount to 45 percent of Egypt’s gas reserves, according to analysts. Eni has historic ties with Egypt and has operated in the country for 50 years and signed a $2bn deal with the country’s oil ministry in early 2015.
Eni is the sole license holder for the Zohr field. The company wants to start drilling and setting up new pipelines next year with the first benefits potentially coming on stream by 2018 but Descalzi refused to put a firm date on when production could begin.
“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,” said Descalzi. Eni is facing a tough market with low oil prices and was forced to cut its dividend and investments earlier this year.