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France has around 60 oil and gas fields, mainly in the Aquitaine basin and the Paris basin. Most were discovered between 1960 and 1970 with production barely meeting 1% of national consumption. Nearly 70% of production is provided by 12 fields, 4 of which provide 37.5%, namely the Parentis and Cazaux fields in Aquitaine and the Champotran and Itteville fields in the Paris Basin.
The Aquitaine Basin - can be subdivided into two sub-basins. In the south, the Adour-Arzacq-Comminges basin extends along the northern edge of the Pyrenees and the foreland. In the northwest the Parentis basin extends on and offshore. Exploration wells have also identified the Landes platform which includes potential basins under Permian cover and within the Pyrenees.
The Paris Basin -
The Rhine Graben - in Alsace is the only other region that has produced a significant volume of hydrocarbons. The area has been intensively explored (approximately 150 exploration wells since 1940), and is also the oldest French oil province, attracting the first mining license granted at the end of the 18th century.
Other onshore basins - The southeast quarter of France is a complex geological encompassing the northern Jura mountains, including the Bresse Graben,the central Alps and their foreland, and basins south of the Languedoc and Provence bordering the Mediterranean. These regions have seen around 350 exploration wells all failing to find commercial hydrocarbons.
Offshore - outside the marine part of the Parentis Basin, 15 wells have been drilled in Iroise (off Brittany) and 11 wells in the Gulf of Lyon in the Mediterranean without success.
The first gas discovery in the Aquitaine basin was in St Marcet in 1939, however the main success was the discovery of the Deep Lacq gas field in 1951 by the National Petroleum Company of Aquitaine (SNPA which became Elf), coming onstream in 1957. The Meillon gas field was discovered in 1966 and came onstream in 1968. In the Parentis Basin, the largest oil field in France, Parentis, was discovered by Essorep in 1954.
Other discoveries by Essorep since 1991 include Arbutus (1991), Les Pins (1994), Courbey (1996) , Tamaris (1998) and Les Mimosas (2004), as well as Cazaux, Lugos, Mothes and Lucats-Cabeil. Offshore around 20 dry wells have been drilled in the Parentis Basin.
In the Paris Basin a number of oil fields of small to medium size were found in the 1960s after the first discovery, Coulommes in 1958. There was a revival of activity after two major discoveries in 1982 and 1983. The Villeperdue field in 1982 was discovered by Triton in the Jurassic Dogger (developed by Total, then Coparex, then Lundin from November 2002) and the Chaunoy field by Essorep in 1983 (becoming Vermilion in 2006), in the Triassic Keuper.
These discoveries resulted in a rapid acceleration of exploration activity and a marked increase in production during the 1980s, when several other fields were discovered. Production then began to decline again in the 1990s. A number of accumulations were discovered including Itteville (1990). From 2003 to 2005 some satellite accumulations of producing fields were discovered at La Torche, Saint Lazare and La Tonnelle. More than 800 exploration wells have been drilled in the basin.
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FRANCE: SEDIMENTARY BASINS
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