Total is looking at shale gas opportunities in the UK, says CEO


Total is looking at shale gas opportunities in the UK, says CEO


LONDON -- France's Total SA is looking at shale gas opportunities in Britain, Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie said Tuesday in the first strong sign of interest from an oil major in the UK's nascent industry.

Mr. de Margerie said the company is in talks to take a stake in a project in the UK and is also considering bidding in next year's onshore licensing round. He declined to say which company or companies are involved in the talks with Total, which would be the first oil major to enter the UK industry. His comments come as IGas Energy PLC prepares to drill an exploration well in the Bowland shale in northwest England during the current quarter.

Inspired by the U.S. shale boom, the UK government is keen to boost the nation's energy security in the face of declining domestic natural gas output. But progress has been slow. Supportive government policies and attractive tax incentives have bumped up against strong local opposition to hydraulic fracturing.

And while most major energy companies are involved in the development of shale resources in the U.S. and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, they have so far shown little interest in the UK, which is dominated by very small companies and one UK utility, Centrica PLC.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC CEO Peter Voser has said shale development in the UK and Europe was unlikely to take off until the next decade and even then would be on a smaller scale than in the U.S.

To date there has been no commercial shale gas production in the UK. Only a handful of exploration wells have been drilled, making it tough to estimate the country's reserves reliably.

Dow Jones Newswires

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