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France’s Total sells North Sea gas assets

French oil giant Total announced on Thursday it had agreed to sell a North Sea gas terminal and two pipelines in a deal worth over $900 million in a move to help offset falling oil prices.

France's Total sells North Sea gas assets
Tank trucks at French oil giant Total's La Mede refinery in Chateauneuf-les-Martigues. Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP

Total said Britain's North Sea Midstream Partners had agreed to buy the FUKA and SIRGE gas pipelines and the St. Fergus Gas Terminal in Scotland for £585 million ($905 million, €800 million).

The sale is part of Total's effort to sell $10 billion worth of assets between 2015 and 2017, along with reducing new investment and cutting production costs, to compensate for sagging income as oil prices have dropped to their lowest levels since 2009.

The deal announced Thursday follows on the heels of Total's sale last month of stakes in three North Sea gas fields for $873 million, and brings total divestments for the year to $3.5 billion.

“The sale of these midstream transportation assets is another example of Total's strategy of active portfolio management and the strong potential to unlock value from a range of infrastructure assets,” Total's chief financial officer Patrick de La Chevardiere said in a statement.

“Transferring ownership to an entity specialising in midstream UK assets creates value for us and ensures a long and bright future for the facilities.”

In recent months, Total has also sold stakes in a refinery in Germany for $300 million and its South Africa coal affiliate for $372 million.

Despite Thursday's sale, Total stressed it remained committed to gas exploration and extraction, including North Sea fields.

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TOTAL

Fire erupts at France’s largest oil refinery

Firefighters brought a fire at the largest oil refinery in France under control Saturday, local officials said, hours after it started in the small hours of the morning.

Fire erupts at France's largest oil refinery
An automatic hose working to extinguish a flame at the Total oil refinery at Gonfreville-l'Orcher on Saturday. Photo: Jean-Francois Monier/AFP
The blaze broke out at one of Total's oil refineries near the port city of Le Havre, northwestern France, at 4am said officials at the prefecture of the Seine-Maritime region.
   
By dawn, smoke was pouring out across the region reaching as far as 10 kilometres (six miles) away. About 50 firefighters worked to bring the blaze under control.
   
A smell of hot tar hung over the zone, an AFP photographer noted, and although tests for air pollution near the plant were negative, for a few hours the prefecture advised residents to stay indoors.
   
In a statement they said a pump fault appeared to have caused the fire.
   
Total confirmed in its statement that the fire appeared to have been caused at a feed pump.
   
Nobody had been injured and all those at the site, which employs around 1,500 people, had been accounted for, it added.
   
But the incident comes only a day after safety officials approved the partial reopening of a factory in the northwest city of Rouen — which suffered a fire last September — over the objections of some local officials.
   
The blaze at the plant in Rouen on September 26 sent billowing clouds of soot as far as 22 kilometres away, prompting evacuations and school closures over potential health risks.
   
Both the factory at Rouen and the refinery near Le Havre are classified high-risk on the Seveso scale measuring industrial risk.
 
 
 
Tests for air pollution near the plant were negative but the prefecture advised residents to stay indoors.
   
Total said in a statement that no one was injured and that all those at the site, which employs around 1,500 people, have been accounted for.
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