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UPDATE 1-Eni, Sonatrach to fast-track new Algerian oil and gas find

(Recasts with Eni statement, adds detail, background)

March 20 (Reuters) - Italy’s Eni and Algerian state-energy company Sonatrach said on Sunday they had made an important oil and gas discovery in Algeria’s eastern Berkine basin.

The companies said that the reservoir in the Zemlet el Arbi concession in the Algerian desert, is estimated to hold about 140 million barrels of crude.

Europe is seeking energy alternatives to end its reliance on oil and gas from Russia after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Eni and Sonatrach will perform studies... to accelerate the production phase of the new discovery through a fast-tracked development with start-up foreseen in Q3 2022,” Eni said.

On Friday, Eni said it could provide more than 14 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of additional gas resources in the short to medium term, including from Algeria.

Italy has a gas pipeline to Algeria and its imports from the North African country rose 76% last year to account for 29% of overall flows, compared to 40% from Russia.

Eni, which holds strategic long-term gas contracts with Sonatrach, last year signed a series of accords aimed at increasing production in Algeria.

Sources have told Reuters that BP is close to selling Eni its stakes in two major gas ‎developments in Algeria, In Salah Gas and In Amenas. (Reporting by Lamine Chikhi and Stephen Jewkes; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Alexander Smith)

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