Gazprom May Choose Total for Astrakhan

Gazprom may bring in Total to help it tap a large gas field in Astrakhan, it said Friday, only a few months after teaming up with the French oil major on the giant Arctic Shtokman deposit.

The statement comes as another confirmation of Total's growing position in the country, where it had long been seen as an underdog because of its lengthy disputes with state authorities over a small Siberian deposit.

But things have dramatically improved in the past months after Total became the first foreign firm chosen by Gazprom to help it develop Shtokman, in a deal that was struck by the presidents of the two countries.

On Friday, Gazprom said it was considering teaming up with Total on the Astrakhan field -- one of its 10 biggest, with potential reserves of 2.5 trillion cubic meters under the Russian classification -- enough to supply Europe for one year. Gazprom said in a statement that its chief executive, Alexei Miller, met Friday with Total's CEO, Christophe de Margerie.

"Discussions focused on prospects for cooperation in third countries as well as on the Astrakhan field, which has a difficult component structure," Gazprom said in a statement.

Astrakhan's reserves have yet to be fully audited by DeGolyer, which rates them at 199.3 billion cubic meters of proven gas reserves and 48.3 bcm of probable reserves.

In July, Total agreed to get a 25 percent stake in the Shtokman development company.