Total adds Canadian drill partner

Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2003

ANCHORAGE - The U.S. subsidiary of French oil giant Total has brought in a Canadian partner for its exploratory drilling plans in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Such partnerships are normal in the Alaska oil patch and globally, said Jack Bergeron, Alaska manager for Total E&P USA Inc. of Houston, Texas.

"You share the risk," he said. "We have partnerships with various companies throughout the world. Sometimes you partner to gain expertise, but in this case it's to share risk."

Fortuna Exploration, a subsidiary of Talisman Energy Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta, signed an agreement to join Total in exploring land on the eastern side of the petroleum reserve.

Fortuna will help pay for drilling an exploration well this winter in exchange for a 30 percent interest in the prospect, according to a statement from Talisman. Fortuna also will have the right to earn a similar stake on future prospects. No financial details were disclosed.

The petroleum reserve is an Indiana-sized block of federal land set aside for its oil potential in 1923. It is west of the North Slope's producing fields, including giant Prudhoe Bay and Alpine, which is just outside the reserve's eastern boundary and is producing about 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

No oil has yet been pumped to market from the petroleum reserve but industry interest in the frontier oil province runs strong.

In June 2002, Total bid $53 million to lease 229,000 acres on the reserve's east side. Two other oil companies, Conoco Phillips and Anadarko, have partnered to drill holes in the area. They are planning to produce the reserve's first crude oil from small fields by piping it to Alpine.

Total plans to drill its first exploration well this winter but it will not pinpoint exactly where until late this summer or early fall, Bergeron said. The company last winter did seismic studies over its leased land.

Total is eying three prospects called Caribou East, Caribou West and Fox, all south of giant Teshekpuk Lake. The company is seeking permits for six to nine potential drilling sites, Bergeron said.

Total, based in Paris, bills itself as the world's fourth-largest international oil and gas company with more than 121,000 employees. It has only a handful of people in Anchorage.

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