Allesandro Gelmetti from Oil and Gas exploration. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo
Durban - Non-governmental organisations have slammed proposed oil and gas exploration off the coasts of Durban and Richards Bay.

This comes as Environmental Resources Management (ERM) and Italian oil and gas exploration company Eni South Africa BV (Eni) held a public hearing into exploration on Wednesday. This was one of a series of public hearings being held.

Environmental activist Desmond D’Sa, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said the drilling would have a negative impact on fish.

He also doubted whether the touted job creation would benefit locals. D’Sa said these operations normally brought in expertise from overseas.

In its draft scoping report, the company said it was considering exploring “hydrocarbons” at up to six deep-water wells in two areas located near Durban and Richards Bay.

“The drilling of the first exploration well is planned in 2019,” the report said.

The drilling is expected to be about 62km from the shore, near Richards Bay. The area to be explored is 1 840km2. The second area would be about 65km from the shore, near Durban, the report said. The area to be explored is about 2 905km2.

The report says South Africa has a crude oil demand of 600 000 barrels a day.

“South Africa currently imports approximately 70% of its liquid fuel, which comprises crude oil and finished products. The other approximately 30% is sourced from the local production of synfuels from coal and gas,” the report said.

If the exploration is successful, the benefits could be job creation, increased government revenues and the reduced need to import hydrocarbons like crude oil.

Samuel Chademana, of groundWork, said more research needed to be conducted.

He said the potential benefits of oil and gas were small compared to the negatives, which included greenhouse emissions.

Chademana said the country was emitting 117 500 tons of carbon dioxide every day.

It was only the economic benefits that were being looked at, he said.

Melita Steele, tthe senior climate and energy campaign manager for Greenpeace Africa, said they were opposed to the proposed exploration drilling.

“Greenpeace believes that harmful seismic studies and potential oil spills are reason enough to steer clear of oil drilling off the coast of South Africa,” Steele said.

She said the seismic testing could injure whales, dolphins and other marine life.

Allesandro Gelmetti, the managing director of Eni South Africa BV, said the exploration phase was limited in time, and long-term benefits could only be talked about if something was found, which was not a guarantee.

“We are not here to take the resources of the country away There is a need for energy here,” he said.

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