Durban environmental lobby rails against giant oil company’s plans to drill off South African coast
Durban - Anger against petroleum giant, Total which is planning to drill for oil and gas off Mossel Bay continues to swell with the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) calling for the online public participation process to be stopped.
Total and its partner, E&P South Africa BV, have been doing additional additional exploration drilling and association activities in Block 11B/12B off the South Coast of South Africa, the Durban based environmental lobby said, adding they were “destroying our ocean one block at a time and are continuing to contribute to climate change”.
Sherelee Odayar, a spokesperson for SDCEA said Total was trying to get away with this and have public participation via online mediums which is not meaningful participation, according to the National Environmental Management Act.
“It is not known why there is an urgent need to proceed with this application during the current state of emergency. The commercial objectives or advantages to be achieved by the proponent proceeding with the application at this stage cannot outweigh the rights of interested and affected parties to reasonable and meaningful participation,” she said.
According to a report in Argusmedia.com, an energy and commodities market blog, Total and its project partners will resume drilling at block 11B/12B offshore South Africa in September after the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the exploration programme by several months.
“The Deepsea Stavanger semi-submersible rig has departed Bergen, Norway, for South Africa to start a multi-well drilling program,” said Total's partner, Canadian oil and gas firm Africa Energy Corp. Previously the plan was for drilling to resume in June,” the blog noted.
Odayar said the planned drilling amounted to an “ocean grab” as Total intended drilling 10 more wells near a marine protected area that was a spawning ground for Kingklip and other species of fish.
“This exploration will impact on small-scale/subsistence and commercial fishers in South Africa. An oil spill can devastate the coastline and affect the many industries, such as the tourism, recreation and the fisheries industry, as well as destroy the biodiversity, like we currently see with the oil spill in Mauritius,” she said.
The South African mineral resources and energy department is, however, pinning its hope on gas and oil exploration off the coast as a game-changer for the economy that according to minister, Gwede Mantashe, “will further enable South Africa to diversify its energy mix”.
Odaya, however, warned that South Africa must not forget its international commitments, like the Paris Agreement, to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions within its jurisdiction.
In its scoping report submission for the Environmental Impact Assessment, the SDCEA, which represents 17 community and environmental organisations concerned with environmental justice and sustainable development in South Durban and KwaZulu-Natal, said they did not anticipate a time when oil or gas could be safely extracted from deep offshore off the South African coastline, especially where the result was simple combustion and thus generation of greenhouse gases.
“Nevertheless, because like any sub-soil asset, natural assets of South Africa in the form of oil and gas should be revered, it is imperative that the competent authority, before taking a decision, considers how much wealth is being taken away from South Africa by multinational corporations, without sufficient profit sharing, taxes and royalties, and reinvestment. This is consistent with best practice in natural capital accounting,” it said.
Among its other concerns was that the proposed specialist studies did include an assessment of climate change impacts, it failed to incorporate a specialist heritage assessment and the study does not envisage a health impact assessment.
“Whilst SDCEA continues to participate in this EIA process, it does not relinquish any of its claims that the public participation process to date, and as planned, is deeply flawed, unfair and fails to garner the views of the wide range of persons and communities who may be affected by the proposed activities. It remains steadfast in its call for the application process to cease, and to recommence at such time that it is appropriate to do so”.
A statement by Total on its website in February 2019 said that it had made a significant gas condensate discovery on the Brulpadda prospects, located on Block 11B/12B in the Outeniqua Basin, 175km off South Africa’s southern coastline.
The Brulpadda well encountered 57 meters of net gas condensate pay in Lower Cretaceous reservoirs. Following the success of the main objective, the well was deepened to a final depth of 3 633 meters and has also been successful in the Brulpadda-deep prospect.
“We are very pleased to announce the Brulpadda discovery, which was drilled in a challenging Deepwater environment”, said Kevin McLachlan, Senior Vice President of Exploration at Total. “With this discovery, Total has opened a new world-class gas and oil play and is well positioned to test several follow-on prospects on the same block.”
The Block 11B/12B covers an area of 19 000km², with water depths ranging from 200m to 1 800M, and is operated by Total with a 45% working interest, alongside Qatar Petroleum (25%), CNR international (20%) and Main Street, a South African consortium (10%), Total said.