By Stephen Jewkes
VERONA, Italy (Reuters) – BP <BP.L> expects to begin exploration with Italian oil major Eni <ENI.MI> in Libya in the first quarter of next year, CEO Bob Dudley told Reuters on Thursday.
“I’m not sure about this year since it takes time to set up offshore rigs but Q1 for sure,” Dudley said on the sidelines of the Eurasian Economic Forum in Verona.
Eni agreed in October to buy half of BP’s 85 percent stake in a Libyan oil and gas licence and become the operator of the exploration and production sharing agreement in the country.
Dudley said the agreement with Eni did not mean BP was thinking of pulling out of Libya.
“We remain committed and have plans to expand,” he said.
BP does not produce any oil or gas in Libya. It signed the EPSA agreement in 2007 to explore onshore in the Ghadames basin and offshore in the Sirte basin.
Its exploration programme was interrupted in 2011 when civil war broke out and remains under force majeure.
Dudley said he was very pleased with the deal with Eni, adding the two groups could soon be working on other projects.
“We are looking at a couple of other things with Eni around the world,” he said, but declined to say where.
Dudley said BP was also looking to grow in Egypt where it is developing the West Nile Delta project.
He said the expansion plans for the project were expected to be completed at the end of the year with more expansion further down the road.
BP bought a 10 percent stake in the giant Zohr gas field that Eni discovered in Egypt and had an option to raise that stake.
“The option expired… We won’t be raising our stake for capital employment reasons,” he said.
(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; editing by Francesca Landini and Susan Fenton)