Italy's Draghi to visit Congo Republic, Angola in hunt for gas deals -sources

MILAN/ROME, April 12 (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will visit Congo Republic and Angola this month and is expected to sign new energy supply deals to cut his country’s reliance on Russian gas, two sources said.

Draghi, who will head a delegation expected to include Ecology Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani and Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi, will visit the two countries on April 20 or 21, the sources said.

The aim is to unlock around 9 billion cubic metres (bcm) of new gas over the next year or two, one of the sources said.

Italy draws about 40% of its gas imports from Russia and has been scrambling to diversify its energy supply mix as the conflict in Ukraine drags on.

On Monday Draghi clinched a deal to ramp up gas imports from Algeria by 9 bcm in 2023-24 to help replace some of the 29 bcm Italy receives from Russia.

State-controlled Eni, the biggest foreign energy producer in Africa, is developing two liquefied natural gas plants in Congo Republic which could deliver 5 bcm of LNG when fully operative.

It also has upstream assets in Angola where it recently signed a joint venture with BP. A government source said Angola could deliver around 4 bcm/year of LNG in a couple of years.

Eni, which in 2015 discovered the super giant Zohr gas field in Egypt, is developing a floating LNG plant in Mozambique which is expected to start production later this year, processing some 3.4 million tonnes per year when operative.

“Draghi is planning to visit Mozambique soon, though as yet no date has been set,” one of the sources said.

Italy, which has five major gas import pipelines, is keen to increase LNG imports and is looking to complement the three LNG terminals it currently runs.

It has said it intends to acquire two floating storage and regasification units with an overall capacity of around 10 bcm.

Reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Angelo Amante; Editing by Susan Fenton