(Bloomberg) — Italy struck a deal to boost natural gas imports from Angola as Mario Draghi’s government rushes to cut energy dependence on Russia.
The accord, which builds on recent supply agreements with Algeria and Egypt, comes as European countries scramble to secure alternatives to Russian gas amid the war in Ukraine. Africa is an attractive option for Italy, with energy giant Eni SpA already present in more than a dozen countries on the continent.
The deal reached Wednesday will increase Italy’s gas purchases from Angola and facilitate joint energy projects that will also involve renewables and liquefied natural gas, a statement showed. Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Energy Minister Roberto Cingolani traveled to the southern African nation in lieu of Prime Minister Draghi, who tested positive for Covid-19 early this week.
“We are delivering on our commitment to diversify energy sources,” Di Maio said Wednesday.
Italy currently gets about 40% of its gas from Russia, and Draghi has acted quickly to try to replace that supply with flows from elsewhere since President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February.
Halting gas imports from Russia is an “ethical duty” and could be achieved in in about 18 months from now, Cingolani said in an interview with newspaper La Stampa on Thursday.
The delegation’s next stop is the Republic of Congo, where Eni may announce another import agreement, people familiar with the matter said last week. That could be followed by a trip to Mozambique, though plans haven’t yet been confirmed, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
The deals in Angola and Congo could bring Italy an additional 1.5 billion cubic meters and 5 billion cubic meters a year, respectively, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information.
Eni last week signed a major deal with Algeria that will see the North African country provide an additional 9 billion cubic meters of gas a year by 2023-2024 — and potentially become Italy’s top supplier. The company also struck an agreement with Egypt to increase flows of LNG to Italy.
Read more: Draghi Bets on Africa for Italy’s Exit From Russian Gas
“Diversification is possible and feasible relatively quickly, shorter than we imagined just a month ago,” Draghi said in an interview with Corriere della Sera on Sunday.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
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