Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Total SA and Tullow Oil Plc won French government approval to drill for oil off French Guiana as they seek to build on last year’s landmark find off the Latin American coast.
“I can confirm that drilling has been approved and will resume” on June 25, government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said today after a cabinet meeting in Paris.
The oil producers’ drilling plans were thrown into question last week after former Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Minister Nicole Bricq suspended exploration permits and then did an about-face to reinstate the validity of those already granted. The companies have a $1 million-a-day rig in place to begin probing the deepwater Guyane Maritime permit in French Guiana, an overseas region of France bordering Brazil.
Bricq was replaced late yesterday after five weeks on the job, with lawmaker Delphine Batho taking over the portfolio in a cabinet shuffle following legislative elections.
Tullow made the first oil find in French Guiana last year at the Zaedyus-1 well, opening a new frontier in Latin America that could eclipse the explorer’s Jubilee field in Ghana. The company planned to drill the Zaedyus-2 appraisal well this month and the Dasypus-1 well later this year.
Tullow, Shell and Total have found light and heavy oil at the French Guiana field, which may hold 840 million barrels of gross reserves in the Demerara Plateau’s Eastern Slope frontier, according to Tullow. The London-based explorer is the operator of the Guyane Maritime license with a 27.5 percent stake, while Shell has 45 percent, Total 25 percent and Northpet 2.5 percent.