Italy expands Adriatic drilling rights to hike gas output, lower price


By Giuseppe Fonte

ROME, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Italy's new government will expand concessions to drill for gas in the Adriatic, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Friday, in a drive to double Rome's output to 6 billion cubic metres per year and lower energy prices for firms.

The measure will take the form of an amendment to a government decree due to be approved in parliament in the next few days, Meloni told reporters.

It envisages 10-year concessions to drill between nine and 12 miles off Italy's Adriatic coast, extracting up to 15 billion cubic metres of gas, Energy Minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin said at a news conference alongside Meloni.

A draft of the scheme seen by Reuters had set the extraction limit at 10 billion cubic metres over a 15-year period.

Under Rome's plans, the gas from the new national production will be sold to Italian energy-intensive firms at between 50 and 100 euros per megawatt hour, Meloni said - a discount compared with prices on the European gas market.

Italy has been working to find new gas supplies to replace imports from Russia, which accounted for around 38% of its total consumption last year, before Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The planned increase in domestic output will provide only a small part of Italy's needs, with more decisive contributions coming from recently signed import agreements with countries such as Algeria, Norway, Congo and Azerbaijan.

Environmentalists say Rome should be doing more to accelerate the rollout of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.

Ten European states agreed on Friday to spell out this year how they will limit export credits for overseas fossil fuel projects, but they shelved a draft pledge to explicitly end such support after pushback from Italy.

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte in Rome Writing by Gavin Jones Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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