Total to Push Ahead With Shale Gas Drilling in Poland, CEO Says

Total SA (FP), France’s largest oil company, will pursue the search for shale gas in Poland by drilling another well, even after partner Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) pulled out following “disappointing” results.

“The permit is big,” Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie said yesterday in an interview in Paris. Total will review results from the two wells drilled so far and may have to “drill differently” or elsewhere, he said.

Exxon plans to surrender two of its six shale-drilling licenses to the Polish government after deciding in June to quit the country. Two exploratory wells drilled last year failed to flow at sufficient rates, according to the U.S. company, whose Werbkowice permit is shared with Total. The results didn’t indicate viable quantities of gas, De Margerie said yesterday.

“It’s not with two wells that we will know,” he said. “That’s the problem with non-conventionals. We find reserves almost well by well.”

Unconventional extraction refers to petroleum production that uses methods other than traditional oil wells. It includes hydraulic fracturing, which involves blasting shale rock with sand, chemicals and water to release oil and gas.

Poland will produce “several” billion cubic meters of gas from shale rock by 2020, Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski said in July. The country’s recoverable shale-gas reserves amount to as much as 768 billion cubic meters, the Polish Geological Institute said in March.

Different Strategy

“Poland’s potential isn’t written off because there were two wells that gave disappointing results,” De Margerie said, adding that Total and Exxon adopted different strategies. Total is seeking new permits for unconventional oil and gas, whereas Exxon acquired XTO Energy Inc. in 2010 with a view to exporting its expertise in shale drilling to Europe, he said.

Poland and France have the biggest potentially recoverable reserves of shale gas in Europe, according to the International Energy Agency. Total, based in Paris, has acquired shale permits outside its home market because lawmakers last year banned the use of hydraulic fracturing in the country.

Total has also invested in shale ventures in the U.S. and Argentina and has said it’s studying the potential for projects in China.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.