Total May Invest in Shale Gas Exploration in the U.K., CEO Says

Total SA, Europe’s third-largest oil company, may invest in shale gas exploration in the U.K., Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie said.

“We’re looking at it,” de Margerie told reporters in London today, without providing details. The U.K. is examining whether shale gas can compensate for the dwindling supplies from the North Sea, he said.

Total, based in Paris, is looking to explore for shale outside of France, where hydraulic fracturing, the extraction method that’s raised the U.S. to the top spot in natural-gas production, is banned. The company is in “advanced talks” with a Chinese partner to explore in that country and expects to start drilling in Denmark later this year. It’s also investing in projects in Poland.

The U.K. may hold as much as 1,700 trillion cubic feet of gas in shale formations and 20 percent may be recoverable, The Times reported on Feb. 9, citing a forthcoming report by the British Geological Survey.

Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. and IGas Energy Plc may be looking for partners as they start drilling test wells in the U.K. this year. The government lifted a moratorium at the end of last year following earthquakes in April and May of 2011 related to Cuadrilla’s drilling activities.

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