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Total Takes Nearly One-Quarter Stake in LNG Developer Tellurian

Tellurian Investments Inc. has attracted another investor to its mid-scale Driftwood LNG terminal proposed for Louisiana with the addition of France's Total. Total is acquiring a 23% stake in Tellurian at $5.85/share for $207 million, further signaling a rising interest in LNG among major producers, analysts said.

"Total's investment materially strengthens Tellurian's position as a large infrastructure development company and is an important milestone in the growth of Tellurian's LNG business, including the Driftwood LNG project in Calcasieu Parish, LA," said Tellurian CEO Meg Gentle, a former executive at Cheniere Energy Inc., which was cofounded by Tellurian cofounder Charif Souki.

GE Oil & Gas recently made a $25 million preferred equity investment in Tellurian. Last August, Tellurian and Magellan Petroleum Corp. announced their merger, which is expected to close during the first quarter, according to a Tellurian spokesperson.

"Investing in Tellurian at an early stage will give us the opportunity to potentially strengthen our mid- and long-term LNG portfolio, thanks to a very cost-competitive project," said Philippe Sauquet, Total president of gas, renewables and power.

Driftwood LNG is in the engineering design and prefiling phase of the LNG project. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved Driftwood's certificate application prefiling last June. Construction is expected to begin in 2018 with first LNG production to commence in 2022.

Last year, Total's LNG production was 10.2 million tonnes. The company plans to double its liquefaction capacity to about 20 million tonnes per year and increase its LNG trading portfolio to 15 million tonnes per year by 2020, it said.

Wood Mackenzie's Giles Farrer, global LNG research director, said the Total deal with Tellurian is an example of major producers’ interest in smaller-scale LNG.

"The jury is still out on whether small-scale LNG is really cheaper per tonne of LNG produced than large scale, but it's certainly a more manageable investment, and that's appealing in the present environment," he said. "As one of the big LNG portfolio players, Total can add both financial clout and could support the development of some of the trains by buying LNG from the project.

"This is a typical Total LNG acquisition. It's built its LNG business on acquisitions over the last few years with deals in Australia and Russia; it buys significant but minority stakes in projects at an early stage then helps mature them."

Analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. also noted the interest of supermajor producers in LNG, "...seemingly implying they see better value in gas than oil long term."

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