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South Africa Could be Days Away From a Huge New Deepsea Energy Discovery


The French energy giant Total is currently drilling in the deep sea off the South African coast, and two industry sources close to the project said it could end up being “a game-changer not only for Total, but also for the country”.

Total expects results from drilling its deepwater Brulpadda (“bull frog”) field in coming days. The industry sources said that “the potential for a discovery is high”.

The Brulpadda field (Block 11B/12B in the Southern Outeniqua deepwater basin) is some 175km off the coast of Mossel Bay.

Total had to stop drilling in the Brulpadda field in 2014 after mechanical problems on its rig. This was caused by a “chaotic combination of currents, waves and winds” in the Agulhas stream during the late winter of the year, according to Africa Oil and Gas report.

This time, it decided to drill in the summer months instead and started the work at the end of last year. It also contracted a new rig for the job – the “Deepsea Stavanger”, operated by the Norwegian drilling operator Odfjell. The rig is more suited to bad weather and strong ocean streams.

“The outlook for finding hydrocarbons (in the Brulpadda field) is extremely high. The question is whether it is gas or oil, and whether it is a good-quality reservoir,” Keith Hill, CEO of the Canadian firm Africa Oil Corp, which also holds a stake in the field, told Reuters. Hill says that Brulpadda could deliver 1.5 to 3 billion barrels – compared to initial forecasts of 500 m barrels.

Africa Oil, in a presentation towards the end of last year, said that 5 high-quality prospects were found in the field. Along with Total, Qatar Petroleum and Canadian Natural Resources are also shareholders in the Brulpadda field.

More than 300 offshore wells have been drilled in South Africa over the past fifty years – but only in relatively shallow seas.

“Although the shallow waters are well-explored in parts, South Africa’s deeper waters have remained almost untouched; only one well has previously been drilled in more than 500 m water depth,” according to the US oil and gas data supplier Drilling Info. This is primarily due to the very strong Agulhas current. Total is expected to reach 1,432 m deep in the Brulpadda field.

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