Italy’s Eni signs $8bn gas deal with Libya amid energy crunch | Oil and Gas News
The energy agreement, signed during Italian Prime Minister Meloni’s visit to Tripoli, aims to increase gas production in Libya through new offshore fields.
Italian energy company Eni and the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) have signed an $8 billion gas production deal aimed at boosting Europe’s energy supplies despite insecurity and political chaos in the North African nation.
The agreement, signed on Saturday during a visit to the capital Tripoli by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, aims to increase gas production for the domestic Libyan market, as well as exports through the development of two offshore gas fields.
Production will begin in 2026 and reach 21 million cubic meters (750 million cubic feet) per day, Eni said in a statement.
“This agreement will enable important investments in Libya’s energy sector, facilitating local development and job creation, while also strengthening Eni’s role as the country’s leading operator,” said Claudio Descalzi, chief executive.
During her visit, Meloni met with Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeiba, head of the internationally recognized Government of National Unity (GNU) in Tripoli, for talks that also focused on migration across the Mediterranean.
take the lead
Over the past year, European countries have increasingly sought to replace Russian gas with energy from North Africa and elsewhere because of the war in Ukraine.
Italy has already taken the lead in buying gas from Algeria, setting up a new strategic partnership there that includes investments to help state-owned energy company Sonatrach overcome years of declining production.
Farhat Bengdara, head of the National Oil Corporation, called the 25-year agreement the most important new investment in Libya’s energy sector in a quarter of a century.
However, the deals made in Tripoli could be undermined by Libya’s internal conflict, which has divided the country between rival factions that vie for control of the government and challenge each other’s claim to political legitimacy.
Highlighting the uncertainty, Dbeiba’s own oil minister Mohamed Oune rejected any deal the NOC might make with Italy, saying in a video on the ministry’s website that such agreements should be made by the ministry.
At a round table with Dbeiba, Meloni echoed her remarks from Algeria, saying that although Italy wants to increase its profile in the region, it does not seek a “predatory” role, but wants to help African countries “grow and become richer.”
According to Matteo Villa of the Milan-based ISPI think tank, instability, rising domestic demand and insufficient investment are hindering Libyan gas supplies abroad. The new deals are “important in terms of image,” Villa said.
Bengdara was appointed last year by Dbeiba, whose own interim government was formed in 2021 through a UN-backed process.
The eastern-based parliament and factions that support it said early last year that the government was no longer legitimate, rejecting both the appointment of Bengdara and the deals Tripoli had made with foreign nations.
The chaos in Libya since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled leader Muammar Gaddafi has left much of the country in the hands of armed groups. There has been a small Italian military mission in Libya for several years now.
Dbeibach and Meloni said they also discussed illegal migration from Libya to Italy. Rome will support Libya by providing new search and rescue ships, Dbeiba said.
Insecurity and lawlessness have made Libya an important but dangerous route for refugees seeking to reach Europe, often via the Italian island of Lampedusa. Every year, hundreds of refugees die trying to make the journey.
Meloni has made the fight against illegal migration one of the main points of her government program, and she has promoted this issue during recent visits to Algeria and Egypt.
Italy’s prime minister should show “some step forward from her predecessor in terms of migration and energy policy in Libya,” said Jalel Harshaoui, a Libya expert and fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.
“[But] it will be difficult to improve Rome’s existing tactics in western Libya, which are still ongoing,” Harshaoui said.