Total targets Foz do Amazonas

French giant Total is aiming to give the green light before the end of this year to plans to kick off exploration drilling in the first half of 2017 in Brazil’s frontier Foz do Amazonas basin.

Total Brazil president Maxime Rabilloud told Upstream that the French operator and its partners, UK supermajor BP and Brazil’s Petrobras, need to be sure that final conditions are right for what is set to be a high risk, high reward exploration campaign in the equatorial margin play.

On the economic front, he said: “I am not yet there for getting the price I want… but I am more than confident that we will get there.”

With a rig deal in sight, the French operator is hoping to be able to spud the first of two exploration wells as soon as the second quarter. With each of the ultra-deepwater, complex wells set to take around 100 days to drill, that means the campaign could be concluded during the course of next year.

Before that can be done, the operator said it must be sure that all the regulatory terms and conditions are right in a low oil price market that is challenging for frontier exploration.

“The decision has been taken. We want to invest with our partners. What we need is to be sure that we will be able to invest in the best conditions,” Rabilloud said on the sidelines of the Rio Oil & Gas conference.

He said that Total is discussing remaining issues with authorities, among which is seeking to ensure that drilling can be pursued in the most cost-efficient manner as possible while meeting authorities’ regulatory requirements.

“I believe it is important to send the message to the authorities… that there are a lot of things you can do now that are not impacting your objectives,” he said.

On top of that is the critical issue of ensuring that a flexible approach can be taken in the event of any discovery.

“The decision has been made… to go there and to invest. And it’s a lot, it’s in ultra-deep waters, they are complex wells… but I cannot spend money should I not be guaranteed the proper time to finalize my obligation… namely in the event of a discovery,” he said.

That does not mean that Total is looking for an immediate extension of the contract term of its overall contracts in Foz do Amazonas, but rather it does not want to be forced into follow-up drilling straight away, for example, when it may make more sense to spend time working on the results of initial wells.

“Eight back-to-back wells is a recipe for disaster. We want to take the right approach,” he said.

He emphasized that in Total’s view it was not about the company and its partners seeking more time without spending anything. “We want to invest but we have to have the right conditions in the current environment,” he said.

Total operates blocks FZA-M-57, FZA-M-86, FZA-M-88, FZA-M-125 and FZA-M-127 in Foz do Amazonas, all of which are located in water depths of more than 2300 metres.

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