Total looks to Russia for shale oil projects

French energy major Total is in talks to join “tight” (or hard to access) oil projects in Russia, which are thought to hold the world’s largest ‘unconventional’ oil reserves, according to a Total executive. Russia, currently the largest oil producer in world, has offered tax relief to boost investments in costly offshore, heavy oil or tight oil production in a bid to sustain output above 10 million barrels per day.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has estimated that Russia had 75 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil reserves, which is considerably more than the 58 billion held by the United States. The US is the current leader in shale oil production.

Yves-Louis Darricarrère, Total’s upstream president, said in an interview that the energy company is interested in Russian shale gas prospects but more in shale oil projects: “We are open to any options – joining a licence already held by a Russian company or buying a field in a partnership with a Russian company.”

As Russia’s West Siberian fields deplete, more and more Russian oil companies, including Rosneft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegas and Gazprom Neft are starting to study unconventional oil prospects as a source for future production. Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil and Statoil have also tied up with Russian partners to develop unconventional oil reserves. The Energy Ministry hopes a new law that acts as a tax relief will boost the share of tight oil production to 11 percent of the Russian total by 2020 from 0.2 percent now.

Total is a shareholder with Novatek, Russia’s second largest gas producer, in the $20 billion Yamal LNG project. It holds stakes in Russia’s Kharyaga oil field, the Termokarstovoye gas condensate fields and the offshore Shtokman gas field.


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