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Total Makes ‘Major’ Natural-Gas Discovery in Caspian Sea Off Azerbaijan

Total SA (FP), Europe’s third-biggest oil company, has made a “major” natural gas discovery in the Caspian Sea off Azerbaijan that may boost supplies of the fuel pumped to the European Union.

“This discovery could be very significant in terms of resources,” Marc Blaizot, Total vice president for exploration, said in an e-mailed statement. The Absheron block well’s first results show a potential of several trillion cubic feet of gas and associated condensates, the company said.

The European Union wants to bring gas supplies from Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea basin to replace dwindling North Sea output and reduce reliance on Russia and North Africa.

“Total’s Absheron discovery is extremely significant,” Jennifer Coolidge, executive director of CMX Caspian and Gulf Consultants Ltd., said today by e-mail. “It means the total quantity of gas Azerbaijan will seek to move westward through the Southern Corridor to Europe should increase, benefiting pipeline projects designed for larger-scale deliveries or multiple pipeline projects.”

State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan, also known as Socar, said in June the country would have 25 billion to 30 billion cubic meters of gas for export by 2020-2025. Azerbaijan has guaranteed 10 billion cubic meters of gas a year for Europe from the second phase of the BP-led Shah Deniz deposit.

President ‘Confident’

“I am confident that all transit issues will be resolved by year-end and new markets will be found for Azeri gas,” Azeri President Ilham Aliyev told state news agency Azertac. “This will certainly boost the importance of our state.”

Transit projects such as the OMV AG-led Nabucco pipeline, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline managed by Statoil ASA (STL) and EON AG, and a third link led by Edison SpA, Depa SA and Boru Hatlari Ile Petrol Tasima AS are vying to carry Azeri output to Europe.

Nabucco has the largest projected capacity among them, seeking to transport 30 billion cubic meters of the fuel.

Total operates the Absheron development with a 40 percent interest. The other shareholders are Socar with 40 percent and GDF Suez (GSZ) SA with 20 percent.

The find at Absheron, which was previously abandoned by a Chevron Corp-led group that included Total, marks a second success since Socar announced a gas find at the Umid structure in November.

Socar estimates the field holds 300 billion cubic meters of gas, according to a presentation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zulfugar Agayev in Baku via the Moscow news room at ;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hellmuth Tromm at htromm@bloomberg.net

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