South Africa Gives go-ahead for TotalEnergies to Drill Offshore

Credit: tronixAS/AdobeStock
Credit: tronixAS/AdobeStock

South Africa's environment ministry has given the go-ahead for TotalEnergies TTEF.PA to drill offshore for gas and oil, after rejecting an appeal from more than a dozen individuals and lobby groups who intend challenging the decision.

The appeal to stop TotalEnergies from drilling in Block 5/6/7 off the Cape coast was the latest in a series of actions seeking to halt energy companies exploring for new offshore discoveries at the foot of Africa.

It sought to persuade environment minister Barbara Creecy to set aside the environmental authorization granted to the French energy company by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy in April, on several grounds ranging from marine noise and oil spills to climate change and insufficient public consultation.

But Creecy, sitting as the appellate authority, dismissed their concerns in a 144-page ruling seen by Reuters.

"I am therefore satisfied that the impacts of noise and light have been adequately assessed and mitigated to ensure low impacts on the receiving environment. As such this ground of appeal is dismissed," Creecy said in the ruling dated Sept. 24.

One of the appellants, Climate Justice Charter Movement, said Creecy's decision was "disappointing but unsurprising".

"The decision by the minister will be challenged, it is irrational and ignores climate science," it said in a statement on Monday.

TotalEnergies, which discovered two massive gas fields off  South Africa in 2019 and 2020, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Its area of interest in the block covers some 10,000 square km and is located roughly between Cape Town and Cape Agulhas, some 60 km from the coast at its closest point and 170 km at its furthest, in water depths between 700 metres and 3,200 metres.

TotalEnergies, the operator with a 40% stake, and partners Shell, also with 40%, and national oil company PetroSA holding the remaining 20%, propose drilling up to five exploration wells in the block.

A source at the upstream petroleum regulator said plans were at an advanced stage for the first well to be drilled early next year.

(Reuters - Reporting by Wendell RoelfEditing by Alexander Winning and Nick Macfie)

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