Eni, Sasol get green light to explore controversial KZN basins

TO fast-track Operation Phakisa to unlock the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans, the Department of Mineral Resources has granted environmental authorisation to two companies to conduct exploratory drilling in the Durban and Zululand basins, covering a total offshore area of more than 4,600km2.

The go-ahead to the Italian energy group, Eni, and Sasol Africa comes despite huge opposition over the past few years against drilling for gas and oil along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline, reports Ground-Up.

According to Sasol these basins are of interest because they sit at the southern end of the Mozambique Channel in which the Rovuma basin, where major gas discoveries have been made, is situated.

Sasol was granted exploration right permit ER236 for three years in 2013 to explore for hydrocarbons along an area of 82,117 km2. In 2014, the petro-chemicals company  concluded a farm-down with Eni for ER236, retaining a major interest in the block.

According to Ground-Up authorisation was repeatedly withheld due to numerous objections from among others environmental organisations, leading marine scientists, tourism operators and the fishing community. It now appears that the department has disregarded the objections in its drive to fast-track gas and oil extraction along South Africa’s East Coast, says Ground-Up.

DMR’s environmental authorisation has reportedly approved the drilling of six exploration wells in Block236, within two areas of interest

  • a northern area of about 1,717km2, which is located at its closest point, about 62km from the shore, with an expected drilling depth of 3,800 – 4,100 metres from the sea surface through to target depths in the seabed;
  • southern area, about 2,905km2, which is located at its closest point, 65km from the shore, with an expected drilling depth of around 5,100 metres.

Eni and Sasol were notified of the granting of the environmental authorisation at the end of last month and interested parties have 20 days to appeal DMR’s decision or any aspect of it, says Ground-Up.