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Total, Exxon eye Poland's shale

PARIS, May 16 (UPI) -- French energy company Total said it was forming a joint venture with Exxon Mobil to explore for unconventional natural gas reserves in Europe.

Total said it agreed to farm into the Chelm and Werbkowice concessional with a 49 percent stake with Exxon Mobil in a deal subject to the approval of the Polish authorities.

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The deals include more than 832 square miles of Polish land.

"The entry into these concessions reflects Total's commitment to expanding activities in unconventional gas, notably in Europe," the company said in a statement.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration in April estimated Poland's shale gas deposits were the highest in Europe at around 187 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable reserves.

Critics say the chemicals used to coax natural gas out of shale rock could contaminate ground water, creating more environmental problems than it solves.

Total said environmental protections in Poland were "core concerns."

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

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