Energy officials hit out at delays in exploration
Petroleum Agency of SA and PetroSA stress that gas is a central component of the country's just transition plans, notwithstanding environmental opposition
Government agencies have called for a speedier mechanisms to deal with opposition to gas and oil exploration plans, which they said was hobbling the country’s transition to a greener economy.
Gas is a central feature of SA’s just energy transition, the presidential plan to move to a low-emissions and climate-resilient economy. The department of mineral resources & energy’s (DMRE’s) Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), describes natural gas as a “critical component” in the transition, and a resource that will “complement renewable energy”.
Speaking at a panel discussion at the Africa Oil Week conference in Cape Town on Tuesday, Petroleum Agency SA (Pasa) acting CEO Tshepo Mokoka said the time spent dealing with non-governmental organisations that sught to block oil and gas projects had to be shortened.
“It becomes important for us to find ways to speed up the resolution of whatever conflict we might have on the legal front with the NGOs,” he said, adding a tribunal or court should be set up to deal with such cases.
Mokoka told the discussion with PetroSA, the Central Energy Fund, and the Strategic Fuel Fund that Pasa estimated SA’s exploration opportunities at about 27-billion barrels of oil, 60-trillion cubic feet (tcf) of offshore natural gas resources, and 200 tcf of onshore gas.
Pasa promotes exploration and development of onshore and offshore oil and gas resources on behalf of the government.
Earlier this month environment minister Barbara Creecy rejected appeals to block TotalEnergies’ application to drill for gas and oil over 10,000 square kilometres off the West Coast between Cape Town and Cape Agulhas.
Environmental groups, fishers, and the Western Cape’s department of environmental affairs and development planning, had sought to persuade Creecy to set aside the environmental authorisation granted to the French giant by the DMRE in April.
TotalEnergies has other oil and gas projects in the pipeline, including the West Coast’s Deep Water Orange Basin and the Cape South Coast, which fisheries in the area say will destroy their livelihoods.
Sandisiwe Ncemane, PetroSA’s interim CEO, said gas was part of a “diversified energy mix” and a balance had to be found between development and environmental sustainability. PetroSA has a 20% stake in the TotalEnergies exploration and production.
Pasa COO Bongani Sayidini noted that part of the just energy transition involves gradually converting coal-fired power plants to gas.
Exploration and production must be processed more quickly, he said, especially environmental authorisations. The DMRE processed applications for exploration rights “quite efficiently”, but the process had encountered hindrances at the department of forestry, fisheries & the environment.
Sayidini said a proper and robust “climate change impact assessment” could be added to requirements. “These environmental groups have an easy way of saying that a climate change assessment has not been done,” he said.
A group of Extinction Rebellion activists protested outside the conference venue, calling for an end to fossil fuel use.
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