Total Exec: Decision on Gas Project in Iran Within Months

PARIS Feb.14, 2007 (Dow Jones Newsiwres)

French oil major Total SA (TOT) expects to be able to make a decision to start drilling in the South Pars gas field "in the next months", Yves-Louis Darricarrere, the company's chief of exploration and production told reporters Wednesday.

The technical and the commercial discussions are in progress, Darricarrere said during a press conference on the company's full-year earnings.

Total will weigh geopolitical risks of investing there once these talks are completed, he said.

The gas field, which is in the Persian Gulf, represents about 1 billion barrels of proven reserves and won't start producing before 2011, Darricarrere added.

Regarding Russia, Total "won't give up", said Total's newly appointed Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie, admitting that the company's efforts to take a significant share of the country's massive gas reserves were unsuccessful.

Discussions with Russian state-owned gas titan Gazprom OAO (GSPBEX.RS) on the giant Shtokman gas field are "ongoing", Margerie said.

In Venezuela, "negotiations with the government are only starting" regarding the heavy oil Sincor project, in the Orinoco valley, Margerie said.

Total anticipates a slight decrease in Sincor's production this year, due to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' quotas, Margerie noted.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Feb. 2 said the government will take majority control of oil projects in the Orinoco River basin by May 1 and that any foreign oil company that resists can leave.

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