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Deepsea Stavanger. Photo: YouTube
  • Oil and gas multinational Total has postponed its application for “additional drilling and associated activities” in the eastern part of South Africa's Block 11B/12B exploration area.
  • This is the same block which contains the large underwater gas deposits of Brulpadda and Luiperd, to the west of the block.
  • Those recent discoveries off Mossel Bay have been estimated to hold at least one billion barrels of gas.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

* This article has been updated below.

French oil and gas giant Total has postponed its bid for additional drilling and exploration rights off South Africa’s southern coastline.

The pause applies to a different section of the the exploration area surrounding two large deposits, Brulpadda and Luiperd, which are believed to hold more than one billion barrels of gas – enough to change South Africa's energy mix, and reduce its reliance on imported oil.

Over the past two years, Total has made significant gas discoveries in the Outeniqua Basin, located roughly 175 kilometers off Mossel Bay.

In 2019, drilling at the Brulpadda Prospect uncovered gas at depths of up to 3,633 meters. The following year, the Luiperd-1X exploration encountered gas at depths of up to 3,400 meters. Both these finds are in Block 11B/12B, which covers an area of 18,734 square kilometres.

Ownership of the potentially lucrative block is split between Total, with the largest share of 45%, Qatar Petroleum, Canadian Natural Resources, and Main Street 1549.

See also | Another massive new gas find: These South African investors look set to score

Total applied for further exploratory drilling in the eastern part of the area, as opposed to the western part, where the major finds are located. But this application to the department of environmental affairs has been withdrawn, according to a notice delivered to stakeholders on 13 April by SLR Consulting, the company charged with conducting ongoing environmental and social impact assessments on behalf of Total Exploration & Production SA.

“This letter serves to notify you that TOTAL E & P South Africa B.V. has decided to postpone their application for the additional drilling and associated activities in Block 11B/12B at this time,” noted the letter by SLR, as first reported by Reuters.

“Thus, the application for Environmental Authorisation of the additional drilling and associated activities in Block 11B/12B has been withdrawn.”

See also | Govt wants the right to sell gas assets without open bidding – and to grant private monopolies

Total said it, and its partners, hold the necessary environmental authorisation to drill in an area in the western portion of the block.

Oil and gas discoveries in Block 11B/12B could reduce South Africa’s reliance on imports and revitalise PetroSA’s Mossel Bay refinery.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

* This article was updated after publication to clarify that the postponed Total application applies to the eastern part of the exploration block, while the major finds are located in the western part of the same block. References to the Upstream Petroleum Development Bill were also removed.

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