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Vol. 12, No. 16 Week of April 22, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Total never lost Alaska focus

Even though French major left Alaska in ’04, it continued to study state’s potential

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

Total E&P USA Inc. is not new to Alaska. Prior to its winning bids in the April 18 Beaufort Sea oil and gas lease sale (see story page 1), the company’s most recent foray into Alaska was in 2002 when it picked up leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and later opened an Anchorage office.

Total drilled on the NPR-A acreage in the winter of 2003-04. Unhappy with the results, the Houston-based subsidiary of Paris-based Total S.A. closed its office and for all intents and purposes left the state.

But according to Tom Ryan, vice president of Total E&P USA’s corporate division, the mega-major has continued to work on its geologic model of Alaska and remained interested in the state’s oil and gas potential.

“It’s never been an area that Total abandoned. When we closed our office we were, at that time, finished with our last project there and did not have anything to go after, but we didn’t change our focus. Our geologists completed their analysis … and continued to work on their model,” Ryan said, which is an “evolving” effort.

“Alaska has never been off our agenda,” he said.

Open to other Alaska acreage

Since Total left Alaska in 2004, the company has sold or traded all its onshore acreage in the United States, concentrating instead on Gulf of Mexico deepwater plays.

But that’s “not suggesting Total wouldn’t look at onshore” in Alaska, Ryan said.

When asked if the company was interested in the Bristol Bay or Cook Inlet areas, Ryan said, “I’m not at liberty to say, but we’ve done a large regional model so it would cover other areas as well.”

Total does not have any immediate plans to open an office in Alaska. Rather the company’s exploration office in Houston, which is headed by Denis Francoise, will be in charge of its new Alaska assets.

“Denis Francoise will be in charge of refinement and further evaluation of those blocks. They have long-term implications. But we’re not going to be opening an office in the near future or finding a replacement for someone like Jack Bergeron until we firm up our plans,” Ryan said. Bergeron headed up Total’s operations in the state from 2002 to 2004.

When asked if a seismic program was a possibility in the near future, Ryan said, “that’s a good question.”

“We’re glad to be back and look forward to working with the people of Alaska on the North Slope and elsewhere. We look forward to establishing new relationships, and building on those we left behind,” he said.



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