MILAN, July 20 (Reuters) - Italian oil and gas group Eni said it signed a deal to explore for hydrocarbons in the Republic of Congo's coastal basin, expanding its foothold in sub-Saharan Africa's No. 4 oil producer.
At a signing ceremony in capital Brazzaville, new Eni Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi signed the deal for onshore and deep-water exploration acreage with Energy Minister Andre Raphael Loemba, the company said in a statement on Sunday.
Eni could not immediately be reached to provide any further details.
The Italian oil major, which has been active in Congo since 1968, said in February it had discovered fields with estimated reserves of 1.2 billion barrels of oil and 30 billion cubic metres of gas in Congo's Marine VII offshore block.
Geologists have drawn parallels between the West African coastline and the geology of offshore Brazil, where billions of barrels in oil reserves are tucked beneath a submerged salt layer.
Eni said it produces around 450,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in sub-Saharan Africa including Congo, Ghana, Gabon, Nigeria and Kenya, among others.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is on an official three-day tour of energy-rich African countries strategic to Eni's interests, was in attendance.
Renzi, who began his trip in Mozambique where Eni plans to invest 50 billion euros to build a major gas export plant, flies back to Italy from Angola on Monday. (Reporting by Oleg Vukmanovic; editing by Jane Baird)