MILAN, Italy, June 18 (UPI) -- Italian energy company Eni announced it made a deal to acquire a majority stake in a Ukrainian energy company working in shale deposits in the region.
Eni announced it signed a deal with state-owned companies in Ukraine to acquire a 50.01 percent stake in energy company Westgasinvest.
Westgasinvest has rights to nine unconventional shale natural gas license areas in the Lviv basin in Ukraine, which Eni said is one of the more potentially lucrative shale basins in Europe.
"This transaction, which strengthens the company's presence in Ukraine, represents a major step forward for the development of Eni's global unconventional portfolio," the company said in a statement. "It will allow Eni to establish the foundation from which to build a robust future in that country."
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates Ukraine has around 42 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves, putting it in the No. 3 spot among European countries.
The country in May approved plans by Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell to develop the Yuzivske and Oleske shale fields. Kiev expects those fields to satisfy as much as 10 percent of the domestic natural gas demand by 2020.
Ukraine aims to diversify its energy sector in an effort to find economic relief. It gets the bulk of its natural gas from Russia but at a cost that is burdensome to the Ukrainian economy.