MILAN, April 16 (Reuters) - Italian energy major Eni has invited interested companies to put forward design proposals for a floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Mozambique.
A source close to the matter said Eni announced its request for so-called front-end engineering and design (FEED) proposals in a local Mozambique newspaper.
Eni is looking to export recent finds in the East African country thought to contain gas resources of more than 85 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) to energy-hungry Asia.
Some of the world's biggest offshore natural gas fields lie off the coast of Mozambique.
Eni holds a controlling stake in the gas-rich Area 4 field in Mozambique's Rovuma Basin, which is estimated to hold more than 150 tcf.
The state-controlled Italian major has previously said its investments in the country could total around $50 billion.
As part of its project it plans to build onshore and offshore gas liquefaction plants aimed at mainly Asian markets and local consumption.
In a strategy update earlier this year, Eni said it plans to build an onshore LNG plant and two floating LNG plants in its giant Mamba field with a combined capacity of 10 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).
A final investment decision (FID) is expected before the end of 2015, with production start-up due in 2020.
Eni is also planning another floating LNG plant in its fully-owned Coral field in Area 4. A decision on that is expected by the end of the year.
The challenge for one of Africa's poorest countries is to develop the fields and begin lucrative exports before a wave of supply from rivals, including neighbouring Tanzania, beat them to market.
In Mozambique, exploration efforts are being spearheaded by Italy's Eni and U.S.-based Anadarko Petroleum.
(Reporting by Oleg Vukmanovic and Stephen Jewkes; editing by Andrew Hay)