South Africa’s Green Light for Offshore Drilling: What You Need to Know 

A controversial decision that could have economic and environmental consequences

by Motoni Olodun

South Africa has given TotalEnergies, a French energy company, the go-ahead to drill for oil and gas in a block off its southwest coast. The decision comes after an appeal by environmental groups and activists was dismissed by the environment minister, Barbara Creecy.

The block, known as 5/6/7, covers an area of 10,000 square kilometers and is located between Cape Town and Cape Agulhas. TotalEnergies plans to drill up to five exploration wells in water depths ranging from 700 to 3,200 meters.

The company has made two gas condensate discoveries in the same region in 2019 and 2020, potentially boosting South Africa’s energy security and economy. However, the drilling project also poses risks to the marine environment, biodiversity, and climate.

The appeal against the environmental authorization granted to TotalEnergies in April raised concerns about the impacts of noise, light, oil spills, and greenhouse gas emissions on the ocean and its wildlife. The appellants also argued that there was insufficient public consultation and that the project was incompatible with South Africa’s commitments to reduce its carbon footprint.

However, Creecy rejected these arguments in a 144-page ruling, saying that the impacts of the project had been adequately assessed and mitigated. She also said that the project aligned with the country’s energy policy and would create jobs and investment opportunities.

The ruling has been criticized by some environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace Africa, which said that it was “a slap in the face of science and democracy”. They also warned that the drilling could trigger seismic activity and threaten the endangered African penguin population.

On the other hand, some industry experts and analysts have welcomed the decision, saying it could unlock South Africa’s offshore potential and attract more interest in exploration. They also said that natural gas could play a role in transitioning to a low-carbon future.

The drilling project is still subject to other regulatory approvals and permits before it can commence. TotalEnergies has not announced a timeline for the project yet.

Source: Nasdaq

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