Italian energy group Eni says it has found one of the world’s largest natural gas fields off Egypt’s coast.
The company said the area was 1,450m (4,757 feet) beneath the surface and covered 100 sq km (39 sq miles).
It could hold as much as 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, or 5.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent, Eni said. 30 trillion cubic feet is the equivalent of 850 billion cubic metres.
In comparison, the two countries with the larges proven gas reserves, Iran and Russia, are believed to have 34 and 32 trillion of cubic meters of gas respectively.
The company says that the Zohr field “could become one of the world’s largest natural-gas finds” and help meet Egypt’s gas needs for decades.
“This historic discovery will be able to transform the energy scenario of Egypt,” said Claudio Descalzi, chief executive of Eni, as quoted by the BBC.
Most of the gas is expected to be used by Egypt, with any excess exported, perhaps using an existing LNG plant that Eni has not far from the field.
Eni, which has full concession rights to the area, is the biggest foreign energy firm in Africa.
In June, it signed an energy exploration deal with Egypt’s oil ministry worth $2bn (£1.5bn) allowing the company to explore in Sinai, the Gulf of Suez, the Mediterranean and areas in the Nile Delta.
Eni’s find follows other significant gas discoveries in the Mediterranean in recent years, including by Egypt’s neighbour Israel.
But the discovery caused disappointment in Israel, who had invested a lot to develop its own Leviathan offshore gas field precisely with the purpose of supplying Egypt. The main reason is that Israel wants to prevent Egypt from becoming a client for Iranian gas.