Vol. 5 Num 263 Tue. February 22, 2005  

Total chief urges greater access to Opec reserves

The chief executive of French energy giant Total believes Western oil companies must have better access to oil and gas reserves in Opec countries and Russia to continue increasing their output, according to an interview with The Times newspaper published Monday.

Thierry Desmarest said Total was able to replace its production only by exploration -- the "classical route" of finding new oil reserves.

"Our target is to continue to grow (output) at 4.0 percent per year. To obtain the additional reserves to keep production growing at 4.0 percent per year we need to conclude agreements with producing countries to get access to reserves," he said.

The French oil chief meanwhile pointed to Total's investments in Opec countries such as Iran, Nigeria and Venezuela as key elements of its portfolio.

"In Opec, some countries are open, but even when they are open the decision process is frequently slow," he said.

Desmarest added that more investment was needed by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries to restore the security margin between oil consumption and supplies, according to The Times.

He said the margin was "a bit short" and would be affected by a slowdown in growth in Russia.

Asked whether prices could continue to rise if Opec countries did not quickly open their industry to significantly greater investment, Desmarest said:

"I would say that is a high probability. But the other point we don't know is if the Asian demand will continue to grow at the high level we have seen."

Opec has meanwhile made it clear that it could reduce its production at its next meeting on March 16 in Isfahan, Iran.