PARIS, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- French energy company Total said Monday it is the first major energy company to invest in British shale gas as it acquired a stake in two license areas.
Total said it acquired a 40 percent interest in two shale natural gas exploration licenses from a consortium of regional counterparts examining the Gainsborough Trough area of the East Midlands.
Patrice de Vivies, a Total vice president for Northern European operations, said Total's new partners have boasted success already in U.S, Asian and European shale basins.
"This opportunity is an important milestone for Total Exploration and Production U.K., and opens a new chapter for the subsidiary [Total E&P] in a promising onshore play," she said in a statement Monday.
British energy company IGas serves as the operator during the initial shale gas exploration campaign. IGas was the target of December protests from environmentalists concerned about the potential threat from hydraulic fracturing, the drilling practice used to exploit shale deposits.
Total said in its statement safety is a top priority for the company.
IGas said in a separate statement Total would pay $1.6 million to the partners and help fund preliminary work needed to assess the reserve potential in the license areas. IGas Chief Executive Officer Andrew Austin said shale gas has the potential to provide a source of economic stimulus and energy security to the country.