Total eyes 200bn unfound oil barrels in Egypt, Libya

Total SA is planning to explore for oil and natural gas off the coasts of Libya and Egypt, a region that may hold as much as 200bn barrels of oil equivalent, a company official said.

The Paris-based company will drill one exploration well off Libya this year, and it will drill another well in Egyptian waters facing the Nile Delta, Senior Vice President for Exploration Marc Blaizot said in an interview yesterday in Bahrain’s capital city Manama.

The Middle East region might hold about 100bn to 200bn barrels of oil equivalents in undiscovered offshore and onshore areas, Total’s Blaizot said. The company’s output growth this year will rise 2 percent to 3 percent, depending on how production in Syria and Libya evolves, Yves-Louis Darricarrere, head of exploration and production, told reporters in February.

Total, Europe’s third-largest oil producer, is also interested in searching for oil and gas off the coast of Lebanon and Syria, where Blaizot expects a great potential for discoveries.

“I would really be happy to explore off the coast of Lebanon and Syria,” Blaizot said. Getting access to resources in the Middle East, however, is still difficult as securing the required government license in the region is not easy, he said.

The company is exploring in Yemen, he said, adding that there were many undiscovered offshore fields in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea that need to be explored but his company is currently interested in onshore blocs.

Net investment will total US$20bn this year, compared with about US$22bn in 2011, with a 20 percent increase in funds set aside for “ambitious” exploration, the company said.

Total is pushing to make big discoveries by drilling more frontier exploration wells. So far the strategy has paid off in Azerbaijan, Bolivia, French Guiana and Norway.

Most of the oil and gas in the region have been identified but there are areas that have not been explored like the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the areas off Lebanon and Syria, and the transition zones in the Persian Gulf, Blaizot said.

The 200bn-barrel estimate includes oil and gas that can be found in carbonate reservoirs in the region and in unconventional areas such as shale gas and oil shale, he said.

Asked if these were the remaining crude resources that can be discovered in the region, “Most likely yes,” Blaizot said. He said these were his estimate and it needs to be backed by more seismic surveying.

Total withdrew from Saudi Arabia’s South Rub al-Khali, or SRAK, joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Arabian Oil in 2008 because it failed to find gas. Shell remained committed to the project and announced that it is drilling appraisal wells this year to assess the resources in the concession desert area.

“We have drilled three wells and they were all dry as you know, but we are still keen about going back to explore in Saudi Arabia whenever there is a good opportunity,” Blaizot said. “You can’t forget about a country as big as Saudi Arabia.”

Source: Arabian Business


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