Total has not been selected to develop Abu Dhabi's multibillion-dollar Bab sour gas project, the chief executive of the French oil major has acknowledged.
"Indeed, we have not won," Christophe de Margerie said on the sidelines of a conference. "We will win the next round," he added, referring to another mooted gas project in Abu Dhabi.
Press reports claim Total has been pipped to the post by its Anglo-Dutch rival Shell, which has been recommended for the Bab project to the Supreme Petroleum Council (SPC) by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).
The SPC is the ultimate decision-making body on the emirate's energy affairs. It has not always accepted Adnoc recommendations.
Total had been widely regarded as the front-runner for Bab, a technically complex project that is estimated to cost in the region of US$10 billion (Dh36.72bn).
Bab is the second major sour gas project in Abu Dhabi, after the American company Occidental won the right to produce at the Shah field in a joint venture with Adnoc, a project due for completion late next year.
Occidental clinched the deal after ConocoPhillips stepped away from the project in 2010.
A third sour gas project at the Hail field will be put to tender after the Bab deal has been concluded, media reports suggest.
Rapidly expanding demand for natural gas in Abu Dhabi has long exhausted conventional sources, and the emirate has taken to importing Qatari gas via the Dolphin pipeline. Abu Dhabi state investors are also building an import terminal for liquefied natural gas in Fujairah.
Shah, Bab and Hail are further measures to secure additional gas supplies. Sour gas is difficult to produce because its high sulphur content increases the risk of accident and necessitates a separation process.
Bab is projected to yield 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day, but the amount of usable gas will be considerably lower.