* Plans test drilling in Denmark in Dec or Jan
* Separate permit need for hydraulic fracking
* Plans to explore for shale gas in UK, Russia
* Europe remains split on shale gas exploration
By Nerijus Adomaitis
OSLO, July 4 Total plans to drill
Denmark's first test wells for shale gas in December or January,
the French energy firm said on Friday, following its deals to
explore for unconventional hydrocarbons in Britain and Russia.
Faced with France's ban on exploring for shale gas at home,
Total is emerging as one of the most active oil and gas majors
betting on a U.S.-style shale boom in Europe.
Total said it planned to conduct test drilling in Denmark
for three months.
"If the results are positive, a test using hydraulic
fracturing (fracking) will be carried out in 2015," a
spokeswoman for the firm said in an email.
Total holds 80 percent of the licence and Denmark's
state-owned North Sea Fund the other 20 percent.
The French firm struck a deal this year to explore for shale
gas in Britain, buying two licences in northern England.
It also struck a deal with Russia's No 2 oil producer Lukoil
last May to tap "tight" oil reserves in the Bazhenov
play in Siberia, one of the world's largest shale oil
Total is also investing in research and development in the
search for alternatives to fracking, such as exploration using
The Frederikshavn municipality in northern Denmark gave
Total approval last week to drill conventional wells in shale
formations about 4,000 metres (13,120 feet) below the surface.
A separate environmental impact assessment (EIA) study and
permits will be needed to use hydraulic fracking, Total said.
Europe remains split on shale gas exploration using
hydraulic fracking, which blasts chemicals, sand and water deep
into the earth to break up shale formations and allow gas to
Shale exploration plans have been met by widespread protests
due to fears that it can contaminate underground water.
Environmentalists have also protested such plans in Denmark.
France, which is thought to hold some of the biggest shale
gas reserves in Europe, has banned hydraulic fracking.
Others, such as Britain and Poland, are pushing hard for the
development of shale gas, seen as one way to lessen European
dependence on Russian natural gas, as well as to lower energy
costs as it has in the United States.
Repeating the U.S. success with shale faces challenges
however, given the number of governments and regulators involved
across the region.
Total said in April it had decided not to extend its only
licence for shale gas exploration in Poland after drilling
showed gas reserves were too low for commercial
U.S. ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil and Canada's
Talisman Energy have also abandoned Poland's shale
In Denmark, shale gas production is seen as an opportunity
to keep the country self-sufficient in energy as it depletes
conventional gas fields in the North Sea.
Last year, Denmark consumed more energy than it produced for
the first time since 1997.
Though the country remains a net oil and gas exporter,
output fell by 13 percent and 18 percent respectively in 2013,
Danish energy agency data shows.
Denmark is Sweden's sole natural gas supplier and also
exports gas to Germany and the Netherlands.
(Additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris)