Italian company Eni and the Republic of the Congo’s government have inaugurated a $5bn natural gas liquefaction project to exploit the huge gas resources of the Marine XII concession, off the coast of Congo.

Said to be the first of its kind in the country, the Congo LNG project is expected to have an overall liquefied natural gas (LNG) production capacity of three million tonnes per year (mtpa) from 2025.

The project, which forms part of Eni’s core supply diversification initiatives, is anticipated to meet the country’s power generation needs while supplying new gas volumes to international markets focusing on Europe.

The gas liquefaction project involves the installation of two floating natural gas liquefaction plants (FLNGs) at the producing Nenè and Litchendjili fields, and at the fields that are due to be developed.

Currently under conversion, the first FLNG plant is expected to have a capacity of 0.6mtpa. It is due to be commissioned in 2023.

The second FLNG plant, which is in the construction phase, will have 2.4mtpa of capacity and is scheduled to start production in 2025.

Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi said: “Today we celebrate the launch of one of Eni’s main projects, made possible by the collaboration with the Republic of the Congo and destined to significantly contribute to both Italy and Europe’s energy security and industrial competitiveness.”

Congo Hydrocarbons Minister Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua was cited by Reuters as saying that project is expected to make Congo an LNG exporter for the first time.

Itoua said: “This should place the Congo among the largest oil and gas producers in sub-Saharan Africa.”