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Sat 9 Feb 2008 11:49 AM

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Total drops out of Saudi gas project

French firm transfers 40% stake to project partners Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Aramco.

French energy giant Total has dropped out of a project to explore for gas in Saudi Arabia's vast Empty Quarter, transferring its stake to project partners Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Aramco, their joint venture company said on Friday.

"Shell and Saudi Aramco are to increase their share ownership [in the joint venture company] following approval of the Saudi government for Total to transfer its shares in the venture to them," the venture said in a statement.

Shell held a 40% stake in the venture - called South Rub Al-Khali Company - while Aramco and Total held 30% each, it added, without giving financial or other details of the transfer.

"The joint venture is determined to complete the remainder of its exploration programme," Patrick Allman-Ward, chief executive of the venture, said in the statement.

The venture began exploring in 2004 for gas, condensate and natural gas liquids in nine blocks in two separate parts of the vast desert area of southeast Saudi Arabia, known in Arabic as the Rub Al-Khali (Empty Quarter). (Reuters)

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