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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Total and Rosneft to Explore Black Sea

French energy giant Total said on Tuesday it clinched a deal with state-owned Rosneft to explore and develop the Tuapse Depression in the Black Sea, a step which bolsters its position in the country's oil industry.

Rosneft, Russia's eighth-largest and last big state-owned oil company with output of 320,000 barrels per day, was awarded the exploration license for the Tuapse Depression in August 2003. Total said the license would be transferred to a joint venture equally owned by the two companies.

The Tuapse zone covers an area of 12,000 square kilometers with a depth of 500 to 2,000 meters, it said in a statement. Financial details of the deal were not immediately available.

The agreement, which Total said was part of its strategy of expanding deep offshore ventures worldwide and bolstering its presence in Russian projects, was clinched during French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's visit to Russia.

It is the latest in a string of deals between Russian and Western oil companies, which are desperate to find new opportunities as existing fields dry up and have been keen to tap post-Soviet Russia's vast oil and gas wealth.

Total's bigger rival, world No. 3 BP, blazed a trail into Russia with a $7 billion plus investment in a joint venture with TNK.

Total has been wary of buying a stake in a Russian oil company because of concerns about governance and controls over investments and some industry analysts have said the French oil major risks being sidelined in Russia as the sector consolidates.

The company's executives have said they are content for now to partner with Russian firms on projects there, which include the Kharyaga oilfield development. Total recently brought onstream Phase II of the field which will double its oil output to 30,000 barrels per day.

It is also hoping to jointly develop with Rosneft, the giant Vankor field, which has estimated recoverable reserves of 905 million barrels of oil and 73 billion cubic meters of gas.