Italian energy group Eni is planning to sell a 20 per cent stake in the Zohr gas field development in Egypt to Russian oil and gas producer Lukoil, according to reports in the Italian press.

Eni discovered the supergiant offshore gas field in August 2015 and recently ran its first successful production test at the asset, which is the largest gas discovery ever made in the Mediterranean.

Citing industry sources, the Italian Insider website reported that Lukoil is preparing to acquire a 20 per cent stake in the field’s operating company.

Production is expected to begin by the end of 2017. The project is valued at $5.6bn, but the investment in the fields will amount to $13bn, according to Eni.

The administrative director of Eni, Claudio Descalzi, has said on several occasions that the company is planning to partner with another company to operate Zohr, according to the Italian press.

Eni’s shares on the Milan Stock Exchange increased by around 1 percentage point to reach $15.13 after the Italian press reported on the alleged Lukoil deal.

Earlier this year, Italy’s Saipem and the local Belayim Petroleum Company (Petrobel) have been selected as the main contractors for the development of Egypt’s giant Zohr gas field.