Total still hungry for exploration in central North Sea stronghold

Total’s UK boss said the French major would keep searching for new discoveries in and around its central North Sea (CNS) stronghold.

Jean-Luc Guiziou, managing director of Total E&P UK, said the area remained one of the “most promising” parts of the UK Continental Shelf.

The North Sea is one of the most mature and expensive oil and gas regions in the world.

But at a time when a number of oil majors are exiting the basin, Total is bedding in for the long run.

The company has just announced first gas from the Culzean mega project, which is located near its huge Elgin-Franklin gas fields in the CNS.

The business believes there is plenty more gas in the vicinity – and that using existing infrastructure could help it deliver more resources at a competitive price.

Mr Guiziou said Total would look at the acreage close to Culzean and Elgin-Franklin to see what the “best steps might be”.

“We will continue to explore and develop in this area,” he said.

Mr Guiziou said Culzean was a “truly massive undertaking”, with 7,000 people taking five years and 40 million man-hours to complete the job.

Danish firm Maersk Oil launched the project in 2015, but was acquired last year by Total in a £5.8 billion deal.

The tie-up led to about 300 onshore job losses in north-east Scotland.

Despite the upheaval, Culzean has come on stream a month early and under budget.

Mr Guiziou said the project benefited from the “quality” of the management team set up by Maersk Oil.

He said the teams from Total and Maersk were a good fit and came together quickly.

“It shows how important it is to have shared values and culture when you work in an area as demanding as this,” Mr Guiziou said.

“Overall I think we discovered that we had much more in common than differences that needed to be bridged.

“Fundamentally everyone was dedicated to completing a strong project as safely as possible.”

Gas has been at the heart of Total’s exploration and development strategy in the UK for many years, and the firm is now the country’s biggest producer.

Total has spent billions on gas infrastructure to serve a number of large fields in the Greater Laggan Area, west of Shetland.

With Culzean now on stream, 65% of Total’s production in the UK will be gas.

It enough to cover 18% of UK gas demand.

Mr Guiziou said natural gas would play an important part in the UK’s energy mix as dirtier fuels like coal are ditched amid the transition to a low carbon economy.

He said: “Around 40% of UK power is generated from gas, coal is now rarely used and carbon dioxide emissions have begun to decrease as a result.

“That’s a good outcome and we’re proud to have been part of it.

“At the same time 85% of homes in the UK are heated by gas.

“In the long run that will change, but that change will not be overnight and as such the UK will continue to need gas.”

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