Total CEO Eyes French Shale Production
Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne thinks that one way of taking the heat out of the debate over shale gas would be to carry out exploration work in its 4,327 km2 Montelimar permit to assess whether the conversation is meaningful. The licence granted to Total but repealed in 2011 following the passing of the fracking ban bill was re-awarded to the French company back in January.
“I am ready to finance exploration because I think the debate has started on uncertain grounds. If I’m allowed to do so, it would be either to recognize a lack of potential so we can stop fighting for nothing; or on the contrary, if we find the right amount of resources the country will decide what to do with it,” Pouyanne said during a hearing of the economic commission of the French Senate on May 18 just days before the oil and gas company holds its general meeting.
He proposes to work with the French oil institute (IFP) and the bureau of mining research (BRGM), two state institutes, which would demonstrate Total's willingness to listen to both the government and opposition groups. But he refuses to give up on its permit as suggested by the French authorities. The French state has appealed the administrative court decision to re-allocate the permit.
“The French government does not want to talk about this issue. So why we should explore and invest money in a country which would ultimately refuse any developments while we have reduced exploration budgets from $3bn to $1.5bn? We are not going to build development facilities surrounded by the police,” Pouyanne adds.
Pouyanne's speech echoes previous comments made during a national radio interview on Europe 1 last January indicating his intention to find a common ground. ““I have no desire to force through on this issue nor to slip in through the back door. If the national community does not support shale gas explorations, we will not do it. I am ready to seek a consensus which is needed on this very issue. The administrative court of Cergy-Pontoise will rule on a legal matter, then I will discuss with French authorities to see if we can find a consensus,” Pouyanne said at the time.
French ban on US imports would be 'an error'
Pouyanne was also asked by the members of the commission to weigh in on the US shale gas imports ban proposed by energy minister Segolene Royal after reports that the first cargo of US LNG imports into France may arrive sometime this summer. “US gas imported to Europe is liquefied but in the US, conventional and unconventional gas resources are mixed in the pipes. It’s hard to separate one from the other when they arrive at the liquefaction facility. Molecules don’t have colour or fragrance. Moreover, it’s a global market. Total plans to buy, import and export US LNG in Europe and in the world. I don’t know how are we going to do prevent the US gas from coming into France in the era of free trade and the transatlantic trade agreement in particular."
Jean-Louis Schilansky, director of the Non-conventional hydrocarbons Center expressed similar doubts and worries in a recent interview with NGE.
Pouyanne insists that Europe should embrace the arrival of US LNG, not fear it. “Banning US imports will be a mistake for the European industry because imported gas from the US will lower prices. Industry will get a boost in competiveness,” he said.