Total is planning its largest exploration push for years as the oil major switches focus towards safer drilling targets after it announced the biggest discovery in the North Sea for a decade.
The company plans to drill 23 new wells this year, head of exploration Kevin McLachlan said.
This will be triple the number holes started in 2017 and 2016, and even outstrips exploration in 2013, before oil prices collapsed.
The strategy means Total’s focus on risky but rewarding so-called frontier developments will be put on the back burner as the major targets already known fields.
The company abandoned its frontier strategy after it failed to live up to expectations, seeing Total fall behind rivals.
Frontier spending will now drop to 15 per cent of its exploration budget from 40 per cent half a decade ago.
“We were spending a lot of money in frontier,” McLachlan told Reuters. “Now we want balance.”
Meanwhile, the company announced what is thought to be the largest North Sea oil discovery in 11 years this morning.
Exploration at the Glengorm prospect east of Aberdeen shows around 250m barrels of oil equivalent, the company said.
Total, which holds a 25 per cent interest in the discovery, alongside Chinese CNOOC, and Edison E&P-subsidiary Euroil.
“Glengorm is another great success for Total in the North Sea, with results at the top end of expectations and a high condensate yield in addition to the gas,” McLachlan said.
Xie Yuhong, executive vice president at operator and co-owner CNOOC, said: “Glengorm discovery demonstrates the great exploration potential of [this license]. We are looking forward to further appraisal.”