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Global Energy Giant Total Keeps Eye on Shale

Even though its home country of France has nixed shale gas and oil exploration, Paris-based Total will continue to seek unconventional resources, a spokesman told NGI's Shale Daily. Total sees gas as a major player on the world's energy stage over the next 20 years.

While France and Germany have rejected the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), Total has two permits to begin the "very earliest stages" of shale exploration in Denmark, and it holds a minority interest (49%) with ExxonMobil Corp. in shale gas development in Poland.

In terms of specific areas of the world, including the United States, where Total might look to increase its shale exploration, the company will not say publicly at this point, the spokesman said. However, he left no doubt that shale and natural gas development more generally are considered a big part of the company's future. It has seen annual net income range from $11- to $18 billion over the past five years, hitting $14 billion last year.

"Our vision expects natural gas to be 24% of the world's energy supplies by 2030," the spokesman said. For Total, both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and shale will be part of the international major's energy resources for the medium- and long-term.

In Europe many nations are skeptical of fracking. In Germany there are national initiatives to get to 100% dependence on renewables for power supplies, even though officials realize that means a certain amount of balancing from gas-fired generation.

France decided in July to not allow fracking, and subsequently, the government turned down a revised Total proposal to explore shale areas with traditional methods. The Montelimar shale area in southwest France is thought to possess serious potential, but for now, Total has abandoned its plans to carry out a three-phase, four- to six-year program to verify that potential.

While refusing to talk about any specific nations or shale areas, the Total spokesman confirmed that the company plans to target more unconventional gas sources. Such as LNG, shale gas and oil, and heavy crude.

"Technology and environmental developments call for gas having a strong role to play," he said, reminding his listener that Total hasn't given up on oil either." In fact, it's a key part of the company's four areas of strategic interest.

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