In Europe: Denmark, France and Poland
Unlike North America, which has a long history of shale gas production, Europe has no precedent for exploiting this resource. Although the exploration licenses awarded in France have now been revoked, appraisal work continues actively in Denmark and in Poland.
Shale Gas in France
In 2010, the French Ministry of Ecology awarded Total the Montélimar license for a five-year period. It was one of three subsurface exploration licenses granted in France to prospect for shale gas. The Montélimar license covers an area of 4,327 square kilometers extending southward from below Valence to the region around Montpellier, in southeastern France.
On October 13, 2011, against a backdrop of growing controversy over shale gas development, the government announced that the Montélimar license has been revoked - despite the fact that the work program submitted to the authorities complied with the applicable legislation and excluded hydraulic fracturing.
On December 12, 2011, we filed in appeal in the Paris Administrative Court in order to calrify the situation, given that we had complied with the Act of July 13,2011 which was used as the basis for the license being revoked.
In his opening address to a national environmental conference on September 14, 2012, French President François Hollande clearly stated his position regarding shale gas in France.
Total considers that shale gas development deserves a constructive national debate. It is disappointing that it has been shut down before it ever began. It has to be remembered that gas has a role to play in the energy transition. France will continue to consume gas for the next 10, 20 or even more years, because we will need all sources of energy, both fossil fuels and renewables.
In October 2012, in the wake of recent controversy concerning Total’s lobbying on behalf of shale gas, Christophe de Margerie stated that the Group was no longer willing to "spearhead the shale gas quest" in France. "We won't ask again. It's up to politicians and government officials" to decide what to do.
Begun in 2011, the reform of the French Mining Code continued in 2012. In November 2012, the Gallois Report mentioned the need to conduct research on shale gas development techniques.
Subsurface Exploration, a Strictly Regulated Activity in Europe
Total’s approach to our operations revolves around achieving maximum environmental safety and, of course, complying fully with all applicable regulations.
Subsurface exploration thus entails numerous preliminary studies, which include obtaining geological samples, taking an inventory of all the aquifers in the affected area and mapping protected areas (in Europe these are primarily the zones registered in the Natura 2000 network). If these investigations point to shale gas potential, consultations with local citizens are organized. The next step is the drilling of 1 to 3 vertical exploration wells (in France, that decision is subject to permission from the local authorities) to obtain core samples and measure a series of geophysical parameters. If these new findings look promising, the next stage is to drill 1 to 3 horizontal wells, again subject to authorization by the local authorities, to analyze the profitability of the play. Only upon satisfactory completion of all these phases can the application for a production license be filed.
Shale Gas in Denmark
Denmark has extensive experience producing oil and gas in the North Sea. However its offshore production is declining and renewable energies will not be sufficient to meet the country's future energy needs. In response, Denmark is exploring for onshore oil and gas, including shale gas.
Recent studies by the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicate that Denmark is one of the European countries with significant shale gas potential.
In 2010, the Danish Ministry of Climate and Energy awarded Total two exploration licenses as operator, in partnership with the Danish North Sea Fund. Located in the Norddjylland and Nordsjaelland regions, the cover a total surface area of 5,261 square kilometers. An exploration well is scheduled to be drilled on one of the licenses in summer 2013.
Exploration began in 2010 and will continue until 2016. The work conducted during this period will determine whether or not gas is present and, if so, whether it is technically and economically feasible to develop. During this process, Total has pledged to take into account environmental and social aspects, consistent with national and local concerns.
Appraise Shale Gas Potential in Poland
The Polish government has already awarded many licenses to explore basins that have been identified as potentially containing shale gas. Poland is believed to be home to Europe's buggest shale gas reserves.
In 2011, we signed an agreement with ExxonMobil to farm into the Chelm and Werbkowice exploration concessions with a 49% interest. ExxonMobil operates the concessions with a 51% interest.
Awarded for a period of five years from December 2008 and March 2009 respectively, the Werbkowice and Chelm exploration concessions are located in the Lublin Basin in southeastern Poland and cover 995 square kilometers and 1,162 square kilometers respectively. The work program for each concession comprises:
- Acquisition of seismic data.
- Drilling of an exploration well.
- A production test if drilling results are encouraging.
To date, seismic acquisition work has been performed, ans exploration well has been drilled and production tests have been conducted on the Chelm concession. ExxonMobil and Total are now working on the next stages of the study programs.
The final agreement was signed in January 2012. A well was drilled and a production test conducted on Chelm. Seismic data were acquired on both concessions. Once ExxonMobil’s withdrawal - announced in May 2012 - takes effect, Total will become the operator of one of the two licenses and will relinquish the other.