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Total eyes 2021 Absheron production

Total is aiming to commence production at Azerbaijan's Absheron gas field by 2021, ten years after launching exploration on the Caspian Sea prospect.

Together with Azerbaijan’s state energy giant SOCAR, Total formed a joint venture in 2009 to explore and develop the Absheron field, which has around 350 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas reserves and 45 tonnes of gas condensate, with exploration beginning in 2011.

Well on course

Now, Total Planning Development Manager Eric Meyer has revealed that the project's development programme will be ready by the middle of next year, and then submitted to the Azerbaijani government for consideration.

Following this, a final investment decision is likely to be made in the fourth quarter of 2017, paving the way for the first commercial drilling to start in the fourth quarter of 2019 and the first gas to be produced in late 2021.

Total and SOCAR both hold 40 per cent stakes in the Absheron project, with French group GDF Suez, which joined the project at a later date, owning 20 per cent.

According to estimates, it should result in around 5 bcm of gas being produced every year, significantly expanding opportunities in the region.

One stumbling block identified by Mr Meyer was a lack of mobile offshore drilling units, which he says creates difficulty for certain work taking place in the Caspian Sea.

At the moment, Total is "considering various options" to address the absence of the rig, and specifically getting around the difficulty that large vessels can face while entering the Caspian waters, passing the Volga-Don canal.

Important progress

One key development is work that began last year on the construction of the new generation rig designed to meet SOCAR's requirements, which will be able to drill wells at depths of up to 8,000 metres and water depth of 1,000 metres, with completion earmarked for 2016 at a total cost of $1.116 billion.

Construction will be helmed by the Caspian Drilling Company, which is majority-owned by SOCAR, while Singapore's Keppel FELS Limited will be the construction contractor.

A further benefit of the rig is that it can be used for drilling on prospective structures and fields in Azerbaijan, including the Umid field and the promising Babek, Karabakh and Ashrafi projects, though the country will still need to build four new floating drilling rigs to cope with major ventures taking place.

Looking to the future, Total says it is keeping an eye on new opportunities and "committed" to its operations in Azerbaijan, despite the withdrawal from the Shah Deniz project .

Mr Meyer concluded: "We will focus on the Absheron project. The company is also considering other opportunities in Azerbaijan, which has a bright future."

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