Total, Kuwait Discuss Heavy-Oil Project, China Plant

Total SA, Europe’s third-biggest oil company, is in talks with Kuwait to develop heavy-crude deposits using advanced technology to extract fuel from fields in the country’s north.

The company, Europe’s largest refiner, is also considering joining a planned refinery project in China, Total Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie said today. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. and Kuwait are seeking to build the plant in the southern city of Zhanjiang.

“First you start with the where, how and what we can bring to the project,” De Margerie told reporters about the heavy oil plan at the Conference Connection’s Middle East Petroleum and Gas Conference in Kuwait City. He said Total proposed using its skill in extracting more difficult crude and using enhanced oil recovery techniques that can raise production rates.

Kuwait, holder of about 8 percent of the world’s crude reserves, aims to boost output capacity to 4 million barrels a day by 2020 and maintain that level for about a decade by expanding its deposits, Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah said at the conference today.

The country is also holding talks with Exxon Mobil Corp. about producing heavy oil, Sami al-Rushaid, chairman of state-run Kuwait Oil Co., told reporters at the conference.

Kuwait is in discussions with global oil companies on enhanced technical service agreements and is “probably months” away from signing the accords, al-Rushaid said. He declined to name the companies.

‘Opened the Tide’

In February the country signed a service agreement with Royal Dutch Shell Plc to help develop natural-gas fields in the country’s north to meet local demand. That “opened the tide” of interest by international oil companies for joint projects in Kuwait, the oil minister said.

“After signing with Shell it is perceived as a positive sign and we’ve been approached by most of the major oil companies,” al-Rushaid said.

Total is seeking to revive output growth after Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reductions and disruptions in Nigeria led to a 3 percent drop in production last year. The French explorer is looking at opportunities to gain assets in Iraq, where the company and partners last year won rights to develop a crude deposit, De Margerie said.

The company is keen to bid on natural-gas-fields for which the Iraqi government may seek offers from international companies, he said. Total hasn’t spoken to its partners, China National Petroleum Corp. and Petroliam Nasional Bhd, on raising its stake in the Halfaya field in Iraq, De Margerie said.

Total will stop shipping gasoline to Iran if any law imposing sanctions on that trade with the Islamic republic is passed and makes it illegal, De Margerie said. He said the company had not approached Saudi Aramco on jointly developing a refinery project at Yanbu in Western Saudi Arabia.

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