Sep 24, 2010
Copenhagen|Engineering|Montreal|Africa|BHP Billiton|CoAL|Engineering News|Environment|Falcon|Mining|Mining Weekly|Petroleum Agency SA|PROJECT|Shell|Africa|America|China|South Africa|Energy|Energy Perspective|Oil|Oil And Gas|Products|Shale Gas|Sufficient Energy Coming|West Coast|Caesar Molebatsi|Dipuo Peters|Drilling|Infrastructure|Martin Creamer|Zulu|Limpopo|Engineering News|West Coast
© Reuse this
Molebatsi: Welcome to you this morning, Martin. We hear that the government has given the world's biggest mining company permission to search for oil and gas off South Africa's West Coast?
Creamer: Yes, that biggest mining company in the world, of course, is BHP Billiton and it's long overdue. They've been trying to get these rights since 2005. In fact, they had a rig at once stage ready to come out to South Africa to start drilling and then the Treasury held them up and said "No, no, no. We must first work out the fiscal arrangements and everything." They've been going on now for five years debating, and finally the Petroleum Agency SA is able to announce that the right has been given to BHP Billiton to drill off South Africa's West Coast, both shallow and deep.
They've got 3A/4A, that's their concession area, as well as 3B/4B. The one is fairly shallow, close to the coast and not so deep and they're targeting gas there, and the other is fairly deep, it can go down to 2 000 m and they're looking at oil there. They've got partners: BHP Billiton's partner that we know very well is Sasol, that's one of the partners, and also the State-owned PetroSA. That is on the 3A/4A concession.
The other partner in the deeper level is a smaller partner and is an American company, but BHP Billiton will be the operator. If we can find some gas and we can find oil off our coastline here, it'll be a tremendous bonanza for South Africa.
Molebatsi: Brilliant. I'm sure though that there is a reason why they've targeted that place, so what will it actually mean to the South African economy?
Creamer: Well it could be a game changer. If you get sufficient energy coming through right on your doorstep like that, that would be, from an energy perspective, it would be a game changer for us.
Molebatsi: The petroleum giant Shell is confident of finding shale gas on South Africa's arid Karoo.
Creamer: Yes! Again, in the Karoo, South African's have been slow because a small company, Falcon, has been the first to win rights there and they've also been granted by Petroleum Agency SA, which is our regulatory body. But then coming in a little bit later was Shell and they've got about 100 000 km2 there, so that's a nice big area that they've got around the Falcon area.
Then, coming in third, was Sasol. They've also got some area, but it's on the periphery, it's not in the heart of it, and then fourth: Anglo American who, I think, have still got to have their rights awarded. So again, you see these international companies are quick off the mark. They get in fast and now we find Shell saying at the World Energy Congress, in Montreal, that they are quite confident that they're going to find shale gas here.
You know, shale gas is the name of the game these days because there's been a technological breakthrough, which enables us to exploit this shale gas. In America it's called the ‘shale gale', it's actually lowered the natural gas price. So this could also be a game changer. Of course, we're going ahead of ourselves, we're being very optimistic here: they've still got to find it. But I mean, for the CEO of Shell to say at the World Energy Congress, in Montreal, that he's confident, that's what he's telling the media, I think he feels that they've done their studies already that there is something there. Whether it's in the right quantities, of course, that remains to be seen, but they've begun to build their wells.
Molebatsi: What does that mean in terms of infrastructure? Of delivering it to domestic workers, and converting that into other products which our manufacturers, for instance, are looking for?
Creamer: We have got very poor infrastructure when it comes to gas. That's why some people are saying it can be a shale gale in America, but it be a shale gale in South Africa? Because we haven't got that same infrastructure, that they can just plug into the infrastructure with this gas now. But, we have got a very big electricity grid and we could use that gas to produce electricity, maybe locally, and then put it into that grid, so you're still sending the energy out in a different form.
Molebatsi: South Africa's big project, Mafutha petroleum refinery, is stalling on climate change issues?
Creamer: You see, again, people chasing gas here as we saw with BHP Billiton and now Shell looking for shale gas it's linked to climate change because one of the fastest ways and one of the most cost effective ways to lower your carbon is to go for gas. And now we see we were going to have a big inland refinery here. It was going to be tantamount to Sasol Four. It was called project Mafutha, which is Zulu for ‘oil'. But you can see that's it's stalling.
It's stalling on climate change issues, because this is going to be in the Limpopo province, it's going to be inland, it's going to be coal-based, and now what do you do with all that CO2? In this new environment with Copenhagen and all these instructions of how we've got to deal with CO2, where are you going to put your carbon? And so that's why they're not going beyond the prefeasibility study now. We should have already been well-advanced with this project Mafutha. They're going to keep it in prefeasibility study until they can solve the issue of carbon capture and storage. Storage is the big thing: where are you going to put it? People inject the CO2 into the ground, but they need a saline aquifer nearby and this, of course, corresponds with Minister Dipuo Peters, she's just announced this atlas for our carbon capture and storage, but most of the places where they want to store it is along the coast and it'll be very difficult not, if you've got this inland refinery to have such a long pipeline. Although, Sasol is doing this project Mafutha, that is their project, it was going to be tantamount to a Sasol Four. Sasol are also doing a similar coal-to-liquids project in China and they say they've got no hang-up with the carbon storage side, so they've already solved it in China, we need to solve it here.
Molebatsi: But at least we are taking climate change seriously, that can be something that is good for us. Well, thank you very much, Martin. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he'll be back with us At the Coalface at the same time next Friday.
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
A massive power outage has not stopped Richards Bay Coal Terminal from setting an all-time coal export record for South Africa; High-level ministerial talk of the need for a new South African mining champion has set tongues wagging; A Gauteng gold miner is saving...
Recent Research Reports
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
Defence 2014: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Defence 2014 report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key participants in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial multibillion-rand...
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move road...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
This Week's Magazine
The international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope – which is to be jointly hosted by South Africa and Australia with, later, outstations in other countries – may not yet exist, but international scientific working groups are already deciding what...
A free Web-based solar power plant capacity-planning tool offers project planners and developers, as well as governments, a means to assess the solar energy potential of thin-film solar PV power over an area of land. The tool was developed by thin-film solar...
As yet, no specific methodology, timeline or costs have been finalised to remedy the water ingress, excessive to contractual specifications, into the Gautrain tunnel between emergency shaft two (E2) and Park Station, says Bombela Concession Company technical and...
The “seriously disruptive” electricity outages in South Africa have cost packaging group Astrapak more than R2-million in “irrecoverable downtime costs”, the company said on Monday, adding that the power cuts were negating some of the benefit of energy saving...
Bakkies and more affordable cars dominated South Africa’s new vehicle market in 2014. Unaudited data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shows that South Africa’s most popular vehicle in 2014 was the Toyota Hilux, selling 37 562 units.