Italian energy giant Eni announced on Sunday that it is joining Qatar Energy in a project to expand production from the world’s largest natural gas reserves field. The announcement follows Russia’s decision to sharply cut its supply of gas to Italy.
Eni is expected to take on a 3% ownership stake in the $28.75 billion Qatar Energy North Field East gas project. Qatar announced last week that TotalEnergies from France was the first foreign partner in the development. TotalEnergies has reportedly taken a 6.25% share in the project.
Additional international energy producers are expected to be announced as partners in the project that will reduce the world’s dependence on Russian energy production.
The project is planned to produce liquid natural gas (LNG) that is easier to transport and is expected to be in full production by 2026. It will expand Qatar’s production of LNG to 110 million tons annually from its current level of 77 million.
Qatar Energy has said that it estimates the total North Field holds around 10% of known global gas reserves.
This year’s Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine has ramped up the sense of urgency internationally to develop new sources of energy.
The announcement from Eni came shortly after it said that it would expect to receive only about 50% of the gas it has already ordered from Russian energy company Gazprom. Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi told Qatari officials that Italy has much to learn from their leadership and their “ability to adapt to very difficult circumstances.”
Announcements of more international partners in the Qatari project are expected this week. Western companies ExxonMobil, Shell, and ConocoPhillips are reportedly part of the partnership group. Several Chinese companies are also reported to be in talks with Qatar on joining the project.
Qatar’s major LNG export destinations have been South Korea, Japan, and China in recent years. Since Europe’s energy crisis that hit last year, Qatar has expanded its shipments to the U.K. and Germany.
Poland, the Netherlands, Finland, and Bulgaria have all seen their gas shipments from Russia suspended because they have refused to pay Russian producers in rubles.