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The aggressive drilling strategy of oil and gas major TOTAL S.A. (TOT - Analyst Report) continues to generate positive results. The drilling activity in the North Platte prospect on Garden Banks Block 959 in offshore Gulf of Mexico has resulted in a find of several hundred feet of net oil pay in Lower Tertiary sands.

The North Platte prospect, located in a water depth of 4,400 feet (1,340 m), was drilled to a total depth of 34,500 feet (10,520 m). The field is jointly owned by TOTAL (40%) and Cobalt International Energy (CIE - Snapshot Report). The latter is the operator of this field with a 60% interest.

Since the initial finding from this field was encouraging, further appraisal wells will be drilled to confirm the size of the discovery and commercial viability of the project.

This is the first of a kind discovery in the Lower Tertiary Wilcox formation confirming the northern extension of the Wilcox formation and the presence of liquid hydrocarbons in the region. This in a way opens up another potential region for oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico where TOTAL already has significant acreage.

This new exploration well is part of TOTAL’s exploration schedule for the fourth quarter of 2012. The company will also carry on additional drilling activities in Iraq, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Gabon.

TOTAL continues to achieve drilling success in other fields too. Recently, the company struck oil in the Garantiana prospect located on Production License 554 (PL554) in the Norwegian North Sea.

Stepped-up drilling activity by the oil major will pave the way for future growth and operational strength. However, the operators need to be extremely cautious of the safety of offshore operations. The Macondo oil spill by BP Plc. (BP - Analyst Report) in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico should serve as a caveat for the industry at large.

France-based TOTAL is one of the largest publicly traded, globally integrated oil and gas companies based on production volumes, proved reserves and market capitalization. The company has exploration and production operations across five continents. TOTAL S.A. currently retains a short-term Zacks #3 Rank (Hold rating).

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