South Africa allows TotalEnergies to drill for offshore oil and gas

South Africa’s Ministry of Environment has given the green light to TotalEnergies for offshore drilling activities aimed at exploring gas and oil in Block 5/6/7 off the Cape coast. This decision follows the rejection of an appeal lodged by numerous individuals and lobby groups attempting to contest the authorization. The appeal aimed to halt TotalEnergies from drilling based on various concerns, encompassing issues related to marine noise, potential oil spills, climate change impacts, and insufficient public consultation.

However, Minister Barbara Creecy, functioning as the appellate authority, dismissed these concerns in a comprehensive 144-page ruling. She emphasized that assessments have been conducted to evaluate and mitigate the impacts of noise and light, ensuring minimal adverse effects on the environment.

TotalEnergies, having previously discovered significant gas fields off the South African coast in 2019 and 2020, is now planning to drill up to five exploration wells in the designated block. The drilling operations are projected to commence early in the upcoming year.

Despite the approval, some groups, such as the Climate Justice Charter Movement, have expressed disappointment with the decision. They have vowed to challenge the minister’s ruling, asserting that it disregards climate science and raises rational concerns about the potential environmental impacts of the drilling venture.

In the consortium involved in the project, TotalEnergies holds a 40% stake, Shell has an equivalent 40% stake, and the national oil company PetroSA retains the remaining 20%.

The proposed drilling area covers about 10,000 square km, situated approximately between Cape Town and Cape Agulhas, with varying distances from the coast, ranging from 60 km to 170 km, and water depths ranging from 700 meters to 3,200 meters. Plans are well-advanced for the first well to be drilled, scheduled for early next year.

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