Eni said it would work through its Congolese subsidiary to serve as the operator during exploration of the Cuvette basin. "The Cuvette basin, so far little explored, is one of the new themes of frontier exploration in Africa," the company said in a statement.
The Italian company said it would target the basin through a joint venture with state energy company, the National Oil Co. of Congo.
The company said the reserve area covers approximately 5,000 square miles in an area about 200 miles north of the Congolese capital Brazzaville. Exploration will take place over a 10-year period.
Eni is the leading natural gas producer in the country. It reached a record high 119 million cubic feet worth of natural gas production in 2011. The company accounts for 30 percent of the Congo's oil production.
The World Bank said the energy sector accounts for most of the government's revenue.