On Monday Algeria’s state energy company Sonatrach signed an offshore exploration contract with French Total and Italian Eni.

Last month Sonatrach stated it aims to begin exploratory drilling in early 2019. The reason to that is Algeria who looks to stem a decline in its overall oil production.

The agreement includes the “exploration and evaluation of the oil potential of the Algerian offshore basin”.

“Together with Sonatrach and Total, we will have the opportunity to explore the deep waters of the Algerian offshore, a virtually unexplored geological province,” Eni boss Claudio Descalzi said in a statement.

“In parallel, Eni and Total will also pursue obtaining exploration permits that will allow for the rapid completion of the hydrocarbon potential assessment,” the Italian firm said.

Revenues from Algeria’s onshore oil production currently amount to 65 per cent of the country’s funds.  Further, it is 90 per cent of its foreign exchange income.

Besides that, Sonatrach sold a 49 per cent stake to Eni in three onshore research areas in the Berkine basin, the east of the country.

The sides assume the project will require more than $ 1 billion. Preliminary investments for exploration account up to $80 million.