Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Rome-based Eni, which earlier this decade led the discovery of an estimated 85 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in Mozambique, on Wednesday signed an accord in Maputo that will allow it to begin exploration work in a previously unexplored area in the country's deep waters.
The contract involves rights for exclusive exploration and development of the offshore block A5-A which are deep waters of the Zambezi basin. In bidding, Eni was named as operator and awarded a 59.5 percent stake, South Africa's Sasol received a 25.5 percent and the Mozambique government held onto the rest, Eni said Wednesday.
It is a "completely unexplored zone" with water depth ranging from 984 feet to nearly 6,000 feet, Eni said.
The Mozambique National Petroleum Institute added that Energy ministry officials also planning to sign another contract with South Africa's Sasol for exploration in another offshore area known as PT5-C.
Eni led the discovery of 85 trillion cubic feet in natural gas in deepwater Area 4, originally announced in May 2014.
In December 2017 Eni sold a 25 percent indirect interest in Area 4 to ExxonMobil in a transaction that included a payment of $2.8 billion.
At that time, Eni East Africa was renamed Mozambique Rovuma Venture, owned by Eni and ExxonMobil, both with an equal 35.7 percent stake, and China's CNPC, with a 28.6 percent stake.
According to the terms of that accord, Eni continued the upstream operations and an LNG project while ExxonMobil would lead the construction of all future LNG facilities to process and export the gas.
As for Sasol, it has participated in the Mozambique energy industry for well over a decade when it developed the Pande/Temane natural gas project in partnership with the State and the International Finance Corporation.