November 28, 2012 / 11:10 PM / 6 years ago

Total Canada president returning to head office in Paris

Jean-Michel Gires, president and CEO of the French oil company Total E&P Canada, attends a luncheon in Calgary, Alberta September 22, 2010. REUTERS/Todd Korol

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The head of Total SA’s Canadian unit said on Wednesday he has accepted a new position at the company’s Paris headquarters and will leave the country after building up the French oil major’s oil sands operations.

Jean-Michel Gires took over as president of Total E&P Canada Ltd in September 2009 and reshaped the company’s flagging oil sands strategy, adding assets with the C$1.4 billion ($1.41 billion) acquisition of UTS Energy Corp and spurring the development of its northern Alberta properties by forming a massive mining and upgrading joint venture with Suncor Energy Inc, the largest oil sands developer.

“We are trying to deliver (production of) 200,000 barrels per day by 2020,” Gires said in an interview. “We’re going to accumulate that with C$20 billion in investment ... This company is going to grow significantly.”

In late 2010, Total abandoned plans to build its oil sands operations from the ground up. It walked away from plans to build its own oil sands upgrading and threw its planned Joslyn oil sands mine and the 20 percent stake in the planned Fort Hills mine into the Suncor joint venture, which included an interest in Suncor’s long-delayed Voyageur upgrader.

Development of those projects has been delayed as the partners look to squeeze out costs and avoid the multibillion-dollar budget overruns that have plagued major oil sands development.

Gires said Total was working with Suncor on the two mining projects and the upgrader and that final decisions on whether to build the facilities could come in 2013 or 2014.

“I’m sure we’ll see tangible results for potential sanctions (of the three projects) next year or the following one,” Gires said.

Gires’ last day as president of the Canadian unit is November 30. His successor has not yet been announced.

($1 = $0.99 Canadian)

Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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