- Royal Dutch Shell (Shell), an Anglo-Dutch multinational oil and gas company, will start a seismic survey in search of oil or gas deposits off the South African coast on December 1, 2021.
- The world’s largest seismic ship operated by Shell Exploration and Production SA’s partner, Shearwater GeoServices, the Seismic Warrior, is set to drag up to 48 air guns methodically through 6 011km² of ocean surface from Morgan Bay to Port St Johns over a five month period.
- The air guns fire extremely loud shock wave emissions that penetrate through 3km of water and 40km into the Earth’s crust below the seabed.
- Environmentalist groups are up in arms because of the negative impact the methodology of blasting waves of sound of up to 220 decibels may have on the marine environment.
- More than 300000 people have already signed an online petition started by Oceans Not Oil Coalition calling on South Africa’s environment minister, Barbara Creecy, Shell and Operation Phakisa to stop the survey.
The seismic survey announcement follows a transaction in August where Impact Oil & Gas Limited a privately-owned, Africa-focused, exploration company, sold 50% of its working interests and operatorship in the Transkei & Algoa exploration right, offshore South Africa (Exploration Right reference 12/3/252), to Shell. The exploration rights were originally granted in 2014.
The South African Government recently granted the Second Renewal Period of the licence. This is a two-year exploration period that commenced in August 2021. Impact and Shell intend to proceed with the acquisition of approximately 6,000 km2 of 3D seismic during 2022.
Oceans Not Oil Coalition claims that the ship will work around the clock, firing the air guns every 10 seconds. In the process, marine life on the sensitive Wild Coast will be panicked and damaged.
“Many sea creatures could be affected in the coming months — whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, sharks and even crabs and tiny shellfish will be blasted. At a time when world leaders are making promises and decisions to step away from fossil fuels because climate science has shown we cannot burn our existing reserves (let alone drill for more), offshore oil and gas Operation Phakisa is pushing ever harder to get its hands on a local supply of gas. Shell must answer for how the harms done during this survey and any exploration drilling done hereafter are part of its energy transition plan to control global warming.”
Operation Phakisa is an initiative of the South African government. The initiative is designed to fast track the implementation of solutions on critical development issues to address issues highlighted in the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 such as poverty, unemployment and inequality.
South Africa’s Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy has hit back saying that the development of an upstream oil and gas industry was a necessary part of South Africa’s economic recovery strategy.
“As part of the application for an exploration right, applicants were required to develop an environmental management programme in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002, which in this instance was approved in 2013 by the DMRE,” the department said.
“The exploration right was subsequently granted by the DMRE in April 2014, allowing the holder to, among other activities, acquire three-dimensional seismic data during the survey window period, which was usually from December to May, to avoid migratory marine mammals.” The department added that an independent audit was undertaken in 2020 to confirm that the controls and mitigation measures were still valid.
“The outcomes of the audit were that the measures contained in the environmental management programme sufficiently provide for the avoidance and mitigation of potential environmental impacts,” the DMRE said.
The Amazon Warrior docked in Cape Town harbour earlier this week amid offshore and onshore protests from environmental activists chanting ‘to hell with Shell!’.
Author: Bryan Groenendaal