Shell says West Coast exploration could be game-changer for SA

Shell is seeing immense opportunities off South Africa’s West Coast. Photo: SUPPLIED

Shell is seeing immense opportunities off South Africa’s West Coast. Photo: SUPPLIED

Published Jul 11, 2024


Shell Offshore Upstream South Africa yesterday said its plans to drill five wells off the West Coast will be game-changing for South Africa, which is currently reliant on oil and gas imports for local consumption.

Shell has formed a joint venture partnership that is applying to drill for exploration and appraisal off the West Coast of South Africa, joining the race by global oil majors to expand activity south of Namibia’s Orange Basin.

Last year, South Africa gave the nod for TotalEnergies to drill offshore although environmental and other lobby groups had resisted the company’s drilling exploration plans.

In spite of the keenness by oil majors to drill for oil and gas off the West Coast of South Africa, Fitch Solutions has noted that South Africa’s bid to grow investment into exploration offshore “faces significant downside risks due to the precedents set by previous successful legal cases ruling against oil gas” companies.

Nonetheless, Shell South Africa’s spokesperson Pam Ntaka told Business Report by email yesterday that if proved to be commercially viable, the company’s plans for exploration on South Africa’s West Coast will be a game-changer for the country.

“South Africa is currently highly reliant on energy imports for some of its energy needs,” Ntaka said.

“Should commercially viable resources be found offshore, this could significantly contribute to South Africa’s energy security and the government’s economic development programmes, while supporting local employment.”

Ntaka also confirmed that Shell was applying for an Environmental Authorisation to drill up to five exploration and/or appraisal wells within the Northern Cape Ultra Deep (NCUD) block.

The block, about 300 km offshore in very deep waters of about 2 500m to 3  200m is part of what experts say is lucrative off the maritime border with Namibia. There could also be an opportunity for drilling for exploration nearer to the West Coast.

“As part of this process, an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) must be completed which includes public participation,” said Ntaka.

Shell is seeing immense opportunities off South Africa’s West Coast.

TotalEnergies has also obtained approvals to drill exploration wells, signalling sustained investment activity in South Africa’s offshore gas and oil sector.

“As society transitions to net-zero emissions, we need to provide the energy the world needs today,” said Ntaka.

The block that the company is targeting for drilling is located off the West Coast of South Africa between Port Nolloth and Saldanha Bay, and is approximately 300km offshore. It is made up of water depths of between 2 50 0m and 3 200m, with the area of interest for drilling extending to about 5254 square kilometres.

Last month, Shell was left pondering its next moves regarding continued investment in offshore exploration for oil after the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed its appeal against an earlier court ruling that set aside exploration rights and renewals for oil and gas exploration off the Wild Coast.