Total to Drill More Than 60 Wells to Spur Production and Shares

Total SA plans to drill more than 60 wells this year as the third-biggest European oil company seeks to increase the size of its discoveries and expand output.

“We are picking up the pace,” Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie told shareholders in Paris. “We will be able to judge the success of our new policy for bolder exploration in 2014 when we get the results of these wells.”

Total announced in January 2011 a “bolder” approach to exploration by seeking oil and natural gas reserves in a wider and riskier range of geographic zones as it struggled to meet promises of production growth. Total set its exploration budget at about $2.8 billion this year, up from $2 billion in 2011.

The company is relying in part on “ambitious exploration” to raise output, de Margerie said at the annual general meeting today. The company’s share price will rise once “we deliver.”

Total advanced as much as 2.2 percent and was up 1.1 percent at 38.985 euros by 1:41 p.m. in Paris trading. The shares have fallen 1.7 percent since the end of 2010.

The company said in February it planned to drill in more than a dozen countries including Ivory Coast, Gabon, Kenya and Brazil over 12 months. It counted four “significant” finds last year including Vaca Muerta in Argentina, Eben in Nigeria, King Lear in Norway and the North Platte in the Gulf of Mexico. Last month Total said it found oil in the Ivoire-1X exploration well in the western portion of Block CI-100 in Ivory Coast.

Production slipped 2 percent to 2.32 million barrels of oil equivalent a day in the first quarter as the company suffered a shutdown at the Elgin platform in the North Sea after a leak.

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