MILAN, Italy, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Italian energy company Eni said it received consent from the Egyptian government to lay the groundwork for developing a giant offshore gas basin.
Eni said received word from the Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum that the state Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Co. has granted it a development lease for the Zohr offshore field.
"The development plan envisages the start of production by the end of 2017, just two years after the discovery, with a progressive ramp up until reaching a volume of about (500,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day) by 2019," the company said in a statement.
Eni made its initial gas discovery in the Zohr field in August and quickly described it as the largest ever made in regional waters and potentially the largest in the world.
Egypt signed an agreement with the Egyptian government to explore the field in January 2014. A framework deal signed last year called for up to $5 billion in total investments in offshore Egypt.
Before the latest discovery, Eni said its overall investment strategy in Egypt during the next four years will lead to the development of an estimated 200 million barrels of oil and 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The company said it would work to fast track the development of the field by using "at best" existing onshore and offshore infrastructure.
Egypt is the largest oil producer in Africa that's not a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the largest gas producer.