Total Targets Africa for Ambitious Output Growth

24.09.2012 -

French oil group Total is banking on a string of African projects to help fuel a 25% rise in output over the next five years, with growth accelerating after 2015 to top 3 million barrels of oil and gas a day for the first time.

Europe's number three oil and gas company told investors on Monday that 70% of the fields on which it is basing its forecast for the 2015-17 period are already either producing or in development.

Three of the projects that will help deliver the post-2015 surge are Egina (Nigeria), Kaombo (Angola) and Moho (Republic of Congo) - all west African projects in deep and ultra-deep water - an area where Total is a self-proclaimed specialist.

Total and other top oil firms like BP and Shell are ramping up spending on exploration, often in relatively underdeveloped regions like Africa, to take advantage of the historically high price of oil, which averaged $113.6 a barrel in the first half of 2012, up 2% on the year.

At its annual investor day in London, Total also announced it had joined the race to exploit the potentially huge resources offshore Mozambique in east Africa, where it already has operations in Uganda and Kenya.

Total said it had signed a so-called "farm-in" deal with Petronas, the Malaysian state company, for a 40% interest in a production sharing contract covering offshore blocks 3 and area 6 in the Rovuma Basin for an undisclosed sum. Other blocks in Rovuma have delivered some very large gas finds for operators ENI and Anadarko.

Total stressed its output projection of 3 million barrels of oil equivalent a day for 2017, up from about 2.4 million today, was not a production target, but an estimate of capacity based on an assumed oil price of $100 a barrel.

Much of Total's output comes from projects where it is not the operator and where national governments can claw back production when oil prices rise.

For 2011-2015, Total forecast output to grow about 3% a year on average.

The company said it planned to sell assets worth between $15 billion and $20 billion in the period up to 2014 as part of a bolder approach to managing its business, which has seen it buy and sell assets more frequently and also merge its refining and chemicals businesses.

Finance Director Patrick de la Chevardiere told journalists assets sales would include small stakes in upstream fields, downstream and midstream assets such as pipelines.

The merger of the refining and chemical units should deliver $650 million in cost savings by 2015, Total said, giving financial details for the first time since the combination was completed this year.

Angola LNG startup still "soon"

Total expects to begin producing from the Chevron-operated Liquefied Natural Gas project in Angola "soon," Chevardiere told journalists, although he said the project may be delayed.

Asked if it that delay could be up to six months, he said: "I hope not. It could be less. I hope it will be less."

Chevron said in July that the first cargo would be in September, but there has been little information since.

Gas from the Angola project was initially destined for the U.S. market, but the rise in domestic shale gas supply there has stunted demand for imported LNG.

Total has a 13.6% stake in the 5.2 million tons per year Angola LNG project. Chevron owns 36.4 % and Angolan state oil giant Sonangol has 22.8%. Italy's ENI and BP also hold stakes.