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Deal watch: Dentons advises Total on UK shale gas interest

As the unconventional method of extracting shale gas increasingly becomes a phenomenon in the UK, Dentons has taken the lead on advising French oil and gas corporation Total on its 40% interest in two shale gas exploration licences in the UK- the first major oil company to invest in UK shale.

The energy giant confirmed it would invest $48.1m (£29.3m) in the search for shale gas in the Gainsborough Trough area in the East Midlands region covering an area of 240 sq km.

The Dentons team was led by energy partner Danielle Beggs and environment partner Sam Boileau, alongside its energy and planning team including senior associates John Stockdale and Roy Pinnock.

Total confirmed it is taking a 40% stake in two petroleum exploration and development licences held jointly by GP Energy, which has a 17.5% share; Egdon Resources UK and Island Gas (IGas) who both have a 14.5% stake each; and eCorp Oil & Gas UK with a 13.5% share. IGas will be the operator of the initial exploration programme, with Total subsequently taking over operation as the project moves towards development.

With investments of approximately $2bn each year in the UK, the deal will make Total Exploration & Production (Total E&P) the largest oil and gas producer in the country by 2015.

Beggs said: ‘Total is a longstanding client of Dentons, and we were therefore delighted to apply our expertise in shale gas to assist them in this landmark acquisition.’

Total senior vice president for Northern Europe, Patrice de Viviès, said: ‘This opportunity is an important milestone for Total E&P UK and opens a new chapter for the subsidiary in a promising onshore play. The group is already involved in shale gas projects in the US, Argentina, China, Australia and in Europe in Poland and in Denmark, and will leverage its expertise in this new venture in the UK.’

The deal comes within days of the firm expanding its energy, infrastructure and project finance City practice following the recruitment of high-profile energy partner and former head of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s energy and infrastructure group Charles July on 13 January.

For more on the explosion of shale gas work, see The $6.4trn question – as legal advisers jostle for position, can shale gas live up to the hype?