Italy and Libya on Saturday (January 28) signed a gas deal worth $8 billion- the largest single investment in Libya’s energy sector in more than 20 years. The deal was signed as Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is in the North African country to talk on energy as well as the issue of migration. A report by the news agency Associated Press on Saturday said the deal was signed by Claudio Descalzi, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Italy’s state-run energy company, ENI, and Libya’s National Oil Corporation’s (NOC) chairman Farhat Bengdara, to develop two Libyan offshore gas fields.
The agreement involves developing the two offshore fields in Block NC-41, north of Libya. According to a statement, ENI said it would start pumping gas in 2026 and is estimated to reach 750 million cubic feet per day. Prime Minister Meloni, who was present during the signing of the deal, called the agreement “significant and historic.” Meloni said the deal would help Europe secure energy sources, adding “Libya is clearly for us a strategic economic partner.”
The signing of this agreement has been criticised by the Libyan government. Oil minister Mohamed Aoun, who was not part of Saturday’s meeting, told a local TV channel that the deal was illegal and the NOC did not consult his ministry, the report said. Speaking to reporters, NOC chairman Farhat Bengdara did not speak about the oil minister’s criticism but said that those who reject the deal could challenge it in court.
Italy’s ENI has been operating in Libya despite the ongoing security issues, producing gas mostly for the domestic market. In 2022, Libya delivered 2.63 billion cubic meters to Italy through the Greenstream pipeline- which was well below the annual levels of 8 billion cubic meters before the country’s decline in 2011. Saturday’s gas deal will likely deepen the rift between Libyan administrations in the east and west, the Associated Press report also said.
Libya is the second North African country that Italian PM Giorgia Meloni visited this week. She is seeking to secure new supplies of natural gas to replace Russian energy amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. Earlier, she had visted Algeria- which is Italy’s main supplier of natural gas.
On Saturday, Meloni met with Abdel Hamid Dbeibah, who heads one of Libya’s rival administrations, and was also to hold talks with Mohamed Younis Menfi, who chairs Libya’s ceremonial presidential council.
On the issue of migrantion, Dbeibah, while addressing a joint press conference with Meloni, said that the Italian government would provide five “fully equipped” boats to Libya’s coast guard to help stem the flow of migrants to the European shores.
(With inputs from agencies)
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