Total sees nuclear energy for growth after peak oil

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

DOHA, Nov 10 (Reuters) - French oil and gas giant Total is targeting nuclear energy to drive growth long after oil and gas output peak, a top executive said on Monday.

"In the future, energy demand will be constrained by tight supply," Arnaud Chaperon, Total's senior vice president for electricity and new energies, said in a presentation to a nuclear energy conference in Qatar.

"Oil and gas will still play a big role in the energy balance. But in the electrification of the world economy, nuclear will play a major role, together with the development of solar and other renewables ... That is why Total is very interested in developing nuclear and renewables."

Global oil output was likely to peak toward the end of the next decade, while gas would follow a decade or so later, he said. Total executives had said previously they expected global oil production to level off just short of 100 million barrels per day around 2020, up from current output of about 85 million bpd.

Total believed it could leverage its experience building megaprojects in the energy industry to take a foothold in the nuclear industry, Chaperon said.

In the Middle East, Total also had good relationships with governments of oil and gas producing countries that could help facilitate projects to build nuclear plants, he said.

"We have expressed interests, we are building experience, working on our strategy, and one day we'll move," Chaperon told Reuters later.

"It's very complex, but the more we get into it the more we see we can bring something. It's easier to convert oil and gas experts into nuclear than the other way round."

Earlier this year, Total said it would join forces with French energy producer Suez and French nuclear reactor maker Areva to compete for a contract to develop a nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates. Total holds a 1 percent stake in Areva.

The UAE aimed to have the first nuclear power plant up and running by 2017, he said on Monday.

Total was concentrating its efforts in renewable energy in solar power, Chaperon said.

"Nuclear and solar are the two areas we'd like to develop. Those are the two areas we feel we can add value."

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