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French oil giant Total to search for shale gas in Britain

The French oil conglomerate Total will explore for shale gas in Britain, joining a boom that has overhauled world energy markets.

Total said Monday it has acquired a 40 percent interest in two British exploration licenses, both in eastern Britain, becoming the major stakeholder. The next biggest partner, at 17.5 percent, is the Dart Energy Europe subsidiary GP Energy Limited.

Poland and Britain are the only countries in Europe actively exploring for shale gas. Other countries have been hesitant, fearing the environmental repercussions. Extracting fuel from shale can require hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, and chemicals forced into the ground to shatter the rock and free the gas, a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Protests in Britain have stalled exploration in other parts of the country.