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Flavio Zanonato

In an effort to reduce the country’s dependency on energy imports, Italy has signed a decree that nearly halved the offshore areas where companies can explore for oil and gas.

Minister of Economic Development Flavio Zanonato signed a decree on Wednesday cutting the offshore acreage open to exploration and production to 139,000 square kilometres, down from the previously allotted 255,000 square kilometres.

“We are supporting the development of strategic national resources by concentrating hydrocarbon research and development in a few marine areas that have the highest potential and the least potential environmental impact,” Zanonato said.

Italy imports about 90% of its gas and essentially of its oil. Under a national energy policy introduced by the previous government lead by Mario Monti, it is seeking to double domestic energy production by 2020.