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Total takes operating stake in Gulf of Mexico oil discovery

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Total takes operating stake in Gulf of Mexico oil discovery

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Total has increased its Gulf of Mexico portfolio, becoming operator of the North Platte deepwater oil discovery with the purchase of an additional 20% stake from Cobalt International Energy as part of the latter's bankruptcy, the French major said Wednesday.

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The purchase at auction means Total now has a 60% stake in North Platte, which is thought to hold several hundred million barrels of oil. Total also raised its stake in the Chevron-operated Anchor discovery from 12.5% to 32.5% and bought 13 offshore exploration blocks in the auction, paying a total of $300 million, it said in a statement.

Total made a joint $339 million bid for North Platte, a Paleogene discovery, alongside Norway's state-controlled Statoil, which takes the remaining 40% stake.

Cobalt, a prolific oil explorer, filed for bankruptcy in December under the weight of difficulties selling its Angolan operations and lawsuits relating to its business there, as well as the industry downturn.

The US bankruptcy court approved the purchases on April 5.

Total has been building up its previously modest presence in the Gulf of Mexico, mostly as a junior partner with Chevron, but also helped by its purchase of Denmark's Maersk Oil, which held a 25% stake in the Chevron-operated Jack field.

"The sale of Cobalt's assets gives us the opportunity to further enhance our portfolio in the Gulf of Mexico under particularly attractive conditions and to be able to apply our expertise as a deep offshore operator. We will now develop the North Platte discovery, looking for the most efficient scheme in terms of development cost", Total exploration and production president Arnaud Breuillac said.

Total said its US production last year totaled 123,000 b/d of oil equivalent.

--Nick Coleman, nick.coleman@spglobal.com
--Edited by Jonathan Fox, newsdesk@spglobal.com