The Republic of Congo has become the latest exporter of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) after the country launched the production of the first cargo load a year after Italian energy company, ENI, had launched the Congo LNG project with local partners.

The first cargo ship laden with LNG will head to the Italian regasification plant in the Tuscan city of Piombino in the coming days, ENI said in a statement last week.

“With the first cargo, the Republic of Congo enters the group of LNG exporting countries, opening up opportunities for economic growth while contributing to the global energy balance,” ENI said.

ENI and its partners shared workforces, know-how and technology “ensuring additional revenues to the country while contributing to Europe’s energy security,” CEO Claudio Descalzi said in a statement.

The project will have an annual capacity of 4.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas, which is used to heat homes and businesses.

It is formed when gas is cooled to about -260 F (-162 C) to be stored and shipped safely aboard specially designed vessels.

Europe has been in search of new energy sources since moving to cut off Russian supplies following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago.

Sales of Russian gas abroad have dropped by 40 per cent since the invasion, according to the ISPI think tank.

Last year, Minister for Hydrocarbons, H.E Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua, while speaking in South Africa, revealed that Congo would join LNG exporting countries by December 2023.

“I am pleased to announce that by December 2023, Congo will export its first LNG,” he said while addressing participants at the just-ended African Energy Week 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Congo has natural gas reserves of about 284 billion cubic meters as of 2021.