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Integrated oil and gas company, TOTAL S.A. (TOT - Analyst Report) expanded its operations in the UK by acquiring a 40% interest in two shale gas exploration licenses in the country. The Petroleum Exploration & Development licenses 139 and 140 are in the Gainsborough Trough area of the East Midlands region of the UK which covers an area of 240 sq km (92.66 sq mile).

TOTAL has been working in the UK for more than five decades. TOTAL presently aims to invest nearly $2 billion in the country on a yearly basis and become the largest producer of natural gas and oil there by 2015. In 2013, TOTAL produced 105,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

TOTAL is presently developing the West Franklin Phase II project (operator, 40,000 boe/d capacity), and the Laggan-Tormore project (operator, 90,000 boe/d capacity) in the West of Shetland area, both of which are scheduled to start up in 2014. These ongoing projects are expected to boost the company’s production going forward.

Oil and natural gas production from Europe accounted for nearly 17% of the total daily production of the company in third quarter 2013. TOTAL has operations in more than 130 countries across five continents and its production touched 2,299 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (kboe) per day in the last reported quarter.

Natural gas is gaining importance worldwide for its clean burning nature. The increasing demand for natural gas has prompted the global majors to increase their focus on natural gas production. TOTAL has been leveraging its strong financial position to acquire new assets and drilling licenses to explore possible reserve rich locations.

Recently, another oil and gas major Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PBR - Analyst Report) acquired 49 of the 72 oil and natural gas blocks, auctioned by Brazil's National Petroleum Agency, or ANP. The investment made by Petrobras is in sync with its long-term exploration plan.

TOTAL S.A. currently has a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). Better-ranked companies in the oil & sector include YPF S.A. (YPF - Snapshot Report) and Athlon Energy Inc. (ATHL - Snapshot Report), both with a Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy).

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