French E&P spending, landholding growth expected

Doris Leblond
OGJ Correspondent

PASIS, Feb. 24 -- Investment outlays in 2006 for exploration and production in France and French possessions should more than double to €145 million from €65 million in 2005.

Operators expect to drill 10-15 exploration wells in 2006, spending €67 million compared with only €19 million in each of 2005 and 2004.

Lundin Petroleum AB, Stockholm, and Toreador Energy France (formerly Madison Energy France) operated 2005's only successful exploration well. La Tonnelle-1 on the Nemours permit in the Paris basin gauged oil in Triassic Chaunoy sandstone (OGJ Online, Nov. 9, 2005). Production tests were carried out at the end of 2005, and extension work is expected in coming months.

Acreage and seismic
The surface area of exploration permits requested fell 22% to 8,413 sq km last year. This year, ten requests have been submitted. Six are in the Paris basin.

Four are in the southern Aquitaine basin, where no new request had been registered since 2001. The hydrocarbon bureau indicated that a geological and oil synthesis of Aquitaine Sud, carried out in cooperation with the Geological and Mining Research Bureau and Institut Francais du Petrole, is due to be published in March 2006 throwing light on the hydrocarbon potential of the region.

Including the ten 2006 requests and those that had not yet been granted in 2005, a large number of permits likely will be awarded this year. Any operational slowdown will be due to service company and equipment constraints, said Carole Mercier, head of the E&P bureau at the industry ministry.

Offshore acreage in force in continental France fell 40% to 13,711 sq km after TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Co. relinquished some acreage when it renewed its Rhone Maritime permit for a second round. No well was drilled offshore, but the ministry reported the highest run of seismic reflection acquisition carried out for years in the waters off continental France and its overseas territories.

Sponsoring these runs were Vermilion Rep acquiring 2D and 3D data on the Aquitaine Maritime Permit, Hardman Resources acquiring 2D and 3D data on Guyane Maritime where a well is scheduled this year, ConocoPhillips Canada acquiring 3D data at St. Pierre et Miquelon off eastern Canada, and TGS-NOPEC acquiring 2D nonexclusive data on the Juande Nova Maritime Permit in the Mozambique Channel.

Production activities
Field development and production outlays are also expected to increase to €78 million this year from €47 million in 2005, pulled along by higher costs as the average target is much deeper than in 2005.

Investment waned in 2005 partly because no drilling occurred in the Aquitaine basin where costs are higher. With the same number of holes drilled in 2005 as in 2004 and all 15 of them in the Paris basin, development and extension investment fell 33%.

Crude production fell 5.1% to 1.08 million tons in 2005 even though operators reworked a number of fields. Gas production saw little investment and plunged 18.6% to 1.81 billion cu m.

Unchanged since 2004, the three producers—Esso Rep, Total E&P France, and Vermilion Rep—each accounted for about 25% of oil production, while Lundin Petroleum and Madison Energy produce 15% and 5%, respectively. Most of the produced gas is operated by Total E&P France in the Aquitaine basin.

The Paris basin remains the predominant oil producing area with 53% vs. 47% for the Aquitaine basin. Three fields produce more than 80,000 tons/year and account for 28% of crude production. Well ahead are Parentis in the Aquitaine basin at 141,000 tons (13%), Chaunoy in the Paris basin at 84,000 tons (8%), and Itteville in the Paris basin at 82,000 tons (8%).

Vermilion Rep brought Saint-Lazare field in the Paris basin on production in 2005 in the Paris basin. It produced 1,300 tons in 8 months. The company is developing La Torche field. Saint Martin de Bossenay, a Paris basin field that ceased production in 1996, was restarted at the end of 2005.

Coalbed methane
New developments have taken place in France in the coal methane sector.

Heritage Petroleum PLC, London, in association with European Gas Ltd., Alfred Cove, Western Australia, formerly Kimberly Oil NL, is set to develop three permits at Bleue Lorraine near the border with Germany.

Gilbert Clark, general manager of operator EGL, told OGJ that after gathering good geological data the last four years as well as production technology from the US, three appraisal wells are to be drilled by end-May or June this year on Bleue Lorraine at a cost of some €5 million.

Last November EGL released initial estimates of 576 bcf of gas in place on 36 sq km of the Alsting block and 415 bcf of GIP on 32 sq km of the Saint Avold block of the 460 sq km Lorraine Permit in coals shallower than 1,500 m.

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