There is unprecedented interest in oil and gas exploration off South Africa’s coast, with 20 companies – including heavyweights such as Shell, Anadarko, ExxonMobil and Total – involved in exploration, Petroleum Agency SA said yesterday.
Will Barker, managing director of Sunbird Energy, an Australian oil and gas firm, told a meeting of the Cape Chamber of Commerce that the company was investing in South Africa because gas would play an increasingly important role in the country’s energy mix.
About 85 percent of South Africa’s electricity comes from coal.
Sunbird Energy, in partnership with PetroSA, is involved in a transaction to acquire the rights to operate and develop the large Ibhubesi gas field off the West Coast.
Barker said gas had been found in seven of 11 test wells sunk at Ibhubesi, which he called the largest undeveloped gas field in South Africa.
This “suggests a high probability rate for further discoveries”, he said.
The transaction still has to be approved by the Department of Mineral Resources.
Barker said the company was considering building a 400km pipeline to transport gas from Ibhubesi to Ankerlig Power Station near Atlantis.
Eskom is considering converting the power station from diesel to gas in 2016.
The electricity supplier has said Ankerlig was designed to run on gas if large quantities were found in the Western Cape.
Petroleum Agency SA resource evaluation manager David van der Spuy said offshore exploration activity was at an all-time high.
During the past year eights, seismic surveys of the seabed had been conducted by companies looking for oil and gas around South Africa’s coast.
“This is a position that South Africa has never been in before,” said Van der Spuy, adding that in previous years there had been an average one survey per year.
The surveys – which map areas of the ocean floor – were the first stage of offshore oil and gas exploration.
The data was then analysed by geologists and physicists.
“If encouraged, the companies could sink test wells in about 18 months to three years,” he said.
Van der Spuy said a number of reasons had contributed to interest in the country’s offshore gas potential: oil prices were high, which made exploration viable, and recent large gas finds off Mozambique and Tanzania had whetted the appetite of oil companies.
The country’s only commercial gas operation was in Mossel Bay.
Van der Spuy said that although PetroSA was digging new wells in a new field, deposits in the two main gas fields, first tapped in the 1980s, were starting to run down. - Cape Times