Reports quoted Zanonato as saying that the Italian government plans to reverse the country’s policy on shale and allow shale gas extraction.
The ministry said in a statement that Zanonato said Italy could merely consider the importing of shale gas, not producing it, Reuters reported.
Italy’s previous technocrat government, led by Mario Monti, last year barred near-shore drilling and shale gas exploration.
The near-shore ban has already been enacted, with Zanonato signing a decree in September reducing the offshore acreage open to exploration and production from 255,000 square kilometres to 139,000 square kilometres.
The policy principally excludes areas within 20 kilometres of the coastline, in a measure first brought forward by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in the immediate aftermath of the Macondo disaster in the US Gulf in 2010.
Italy is dependent on imports for 84% of its overall energy needs and for 90% of its natural gas.
Separately on Tuesday, Italian state-owned company Eni signed a joint venture with US shale player Quicksilver Resources to develop unconventional oil prospects in the Delaware sub-basin in West Texas, part of the prolific Permian basin.