Eni said its contract with China National Offshore Oil Corp., details the seismic survey of more than 750 square miles and the drilling of one well.
The production sharing contract with CNOOC outlines the exploration of a block covering 1,980 square miles "in the attractive deep water of the South China Sea," which the Italian energy company said "has a high exploration potential."
Eni, in a November report, said oil demand in 2010 rose 3.4 percent -- around 87.9 million barrels per day -- compared with 2009. Growth was attributed largely to countries outside the 34-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The United States was the primary oil consumer followed closely by China, which saw oil demand spike 12 percent in 2010 compared to the previous year, the company said.
Eni holds a minority stake in the daily production of around 10,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the South China Sea.