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Department of Energy responds to outcry over Shell’s oil and gas exploration plan

Protesters entered the water around the Amazon Warrior as she approaches Cape Town harbour. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Protesters entered the water around the Amazon Warrior as she approaches Cape Town harbour. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Nov 25, 2021


Cape Town - Oil and gas were still part of the energy mix for the country, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) said as it dismissed concerns over the seismic survey to be conducted by Shell.

Responding to the public outcry over the past week after the arrival of the Amazon Warrior ship in Cape Town Harbour, the department said all the environmental requirements for the survey had been met.

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“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 said 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.

But at Cape Town harbour where the Amazon Warrior is docked, screams of “to hell with Shell” by environmental activists were heard. The ship is set to begin a seismic survey off the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast on December 1 in a search for oil and gas.

The Oceans Not Oil Coalition’s petition against Shell’s exploration in South Africa has drawn more than 200 000 signatures.

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However, the department said it stood by its initial decision and that the development of an upstream oil and gas industry was a necessary part of South Africa’s economic recovery strategy.

The petition’s creator and Oceans Not Oil Coalition’s founding member, Janet Solomon, said the negative impacts of seismic surveys went across the food chain, and since sound travelled more easily under water than through air, the blasts from a single seismic survey could travel tens of thousands of square kilometres, interrupting the communication, reproduction, navigation and eating habits essential to the survival of marine life.

Shell has announced it will start a seismic survey in search of oil or gas deposits from off Morgan Bay to Port St Johns on December 1. The vessel operated by Shell Exploration and Production SA’s partner, Shearwater GeoServices, is set to, for five months, drag up to 48 air guns methodically through 6 011km² of ocean surface, firing extremely loud shock wave emissions that penetrate through 3km of water and 40km into the Earth’s crust below the seabed. Picture: Shearer Vijoen

Extinction Rebellion Cape Town spokesperson Michael Wolf said: “With COP26 fresh on our minds, the desperate need to stop fossil fuel developments to avert catastrophic climate change has never been clearer and scientifically more substantiated.”

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AfriOceans Conservation Alliance founder Lesley Rochat said South Africa was the 12th biggest carbon dioxide emitter in the world and if the country did not fulfil its recent commitments at COP26 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through fossil fuel burning – which this seismic survey would increase – the nation stood to lose a lot more than Shell’s venture promised to bring.

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Cape Argus

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