The Italian energy company Eni SpA announced Sunday it has discovered a "supergiant" natural gas field off Egypt, describing it as the "largest-ever" found in the Mediterranean Sea.
The news came a day after Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi met in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the Egyptian leader's office said.
Eni said the discovery — made in its Zohr prospect "in the deep waters of Egypt" — could hold a potential 30 trillion cubic feet of gas over an area of 100 square kilometers (38.6 square miles).
The discovery well is 190 kilometers (about 120 miles) from the Egyptian coast, and is at a depth of 1,450 meters ( 4,757 feet) in the Shorouk Block, the company said.
"Zohr is the largest gas discovery ever made in Egypt and in the Mediterranean Sea and could become one of the world's largest natural gas finds," Eni said in a statement. "The discovery, after its full development, will be able to ensure satisfying Egypt's natural gas demand for decades."
"Eni will immediately appraise the field with the aim of accelerating a fast-track development of the discovery," the energy company said.
Descalzi was quoted by Eni as saying that the discovery reconfirms that "Egypt still has great potential" energy-wise. He said "important synergies with the existing infrastructures can be exploited, allowing us a fast production startup."
Eni has been in Egypt since 1954 through its subsidiary IEOC. It is the main hydrocarbon producer in Egypt, with a daily equity production of 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent, the company said.
The find could eventually put Egypt in direct competition with Israel, who controls two massive gas fields off its own coast in the Mediterranean.
Impending ElectionsIt was unclear how the wealth of natural gas could affect Egypt's long-awaited parliamentary election, due to take place in two phases starting Oct. 18-19, the election commission said on Sunday, the final step of a roadmap to democracy that critics say has been tainted by a crackdown on dissent.
The first phase of voting was due to begin in March but the election was delayed after a court ruled part of an election law unconstitutional.
The second phase of voting will take place on Nov. 22-23, the election commission told a news conference.
Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the democratically elected main chamber, reversing a major accomplishment of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Then military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who went on to become president, toppled Egypt's first freely elected president, Islamist Mohamed Mursi, in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.
The army then announced a roadmap to democracy in Egypt, the most populous Arab state and close ally of Western powers.
That announcement was followed by the toughest crackdown on Islamists in Egypt's history. Security forces killed hundreds at street protests and thousands were arrested.
The government says the election is proof of Egypt's commitment to democracy.