Four years after French major Total SA suspended the search for natural gas off the Southern coast of South Africa, it was good news this week for the company's shareholders and partners when the exploration and production giant announced the successful drilling of its Brulpadda well, which Total reentered in December 2018.
“We are very pleased to announce the Brulpadda discovery which was drilled in a challenging Deepwater environment,” said Kevin McLachlan, Total's Senior Vice President Exploration.
The drilling by the sixth generation semi-submersible Deepsea Stavanger, which had been hired way back in March 2017 at $55 million, encountered 57 meters of net gas condensate pay in Lower Cretaceous reservoirs motivating the decision to deepen the well to a final depth of 3,633 meters. Initially, Total said the drilling of the well was to take an estimated 60-80 days.
Earlier, Total had said the Brulpadda-1AX well was being drilled in water depths of 1,432 meters to a total depth of 3,420 meters below sea level as the company and its partners sought to discover the oil potential in a mid-Cretaceous aged deep marine fan sandstone system within combined stratigraphic/structural closure in this prospect that the venture partners had de-risked with 2D seismic and electromagnetic surveys.
Previously in 2014 Total suspended the drilling of Brulpadda-1AX well because of the harsh deep-water environment that saw the drilling rig experience difficulties.
“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,” said McLachlan. The Brulpadda prospects is located on Bloc 11B/12B in the Outeniqua basin, 175kms off the southern coast of South Africa.
The successful Brulpadda gas well drilling comes at time when Total is still in good moods following a 48% increase of its net incomes in the third quarter of 2018 to $4 billion and the global oil prices having risen by nearly 44% inching surpassing $70 per a barrel.
For the South African government, the discovery is good music in the ears especially this time when the country imports up to 67% of its natural gas needs. South Africa, which is estimated to have 485 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of technically recoverable shale gas resources, produces slightly more than 34 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas against a national demand of 142bcf. The deficit is imported from neighboring Mozambique where South Africa company Sasol holds proven reserves of nearly 2.6 trillion cubic feet in Inhambane Province.
In addition, the discovery could probably help the final publication and gazettement of South Africa's oil and gas law that the government hopes to bet on to woo more international oil companies to take up more offshore and onshore assets for oil and gas exploration.
The South Africa's Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act Amendment bill has been pending in the country's parliament for more than four years and which many analysts predict could go a long way in streamlining the current contentious regulations on applying for and awarding of exploration permits, taxation, royalty remittances, conflict resolution among other hurdles.
Total now says with the successful drilling of the Brulpadda well, which comes barely months after the company launched production at the Kaombo Field Development Project in Block 32, offshore Angola, the company looks forward to teaming up with its partners “to acquire 3D seismic this year, followed by up to four exploration wells on this license.”
The Block 11B/12B covers an area of 19,000 sq kms, with water depths ranging from 200 to 1,800 meters, 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%).
The initial success of Total in its offshore South Africa gas exploration expedition is a major boost for other offshore operators that are spread over 16 concessions that are grappling with the challenging deepwater drilling environment and the yet to stabilize global oil prices.