JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Mining giant BHP Billiton has been awarded petroleum exploration rights offshore of South Africa's West Coast.
Petroleum Agency SA CEO Mthozami Xiphu told Mining Weekly Online on Tuesday that the agency had issued the long-awaited permit on September 14.
BHP Billiton South Africa confirmed on Tuesday that BHP Billiton, PetroSA and Sasol had signed a new-order exploration rights agreement in respect of block 3A/4A, offshore of South Africa, with the government of South Africa.
The signature marked the conversion of subleases to exploration rights.
BHP Billiton, which has a 60% interest in block 3A/4A and a 90% interest in block 3B/4B, is the operator of both blocks.
The remaining equity on block 3A/4A is held by PetroSA (30%) and Sasol (10%).
Global Offshore Oil Exploration South Africa holds a 10% interest in block 3B/4B.
BHP Billiton South Africa spokesperson Johnny Dladla said: "We are very pleased to be participating in this opportunity offshore South Africa and we are looking forward to beginning work in this highly prospective area."
PetroSA executive Dr Nompumelelo Siswana said that the acquisition of the rights marked an important step in further achieving the goals of PetroSA's West Coast strategy, which was to act as a facilitator and catalyst for the development of petroleum resources.
Sasol Petroleum International MD Ebbie Haan added: "We are very excited about this agreement as it allows Sasol and our co-ventures to resume exploration work in South Africa."
BHP Billiton is continuing to evaluate the data acquired over the blocks. It will also commence well planning activities, including the assessing of the availability of suitable drilling rigs required during the initial period of the exploration right.
Block 3A/4A is considered a shallow water block and block 3B/4B a deep water block.
Both blocks are located northwest of Cape Town, off the western coast of South Africa.
While the corner of block 3A/4A touches the coast, the area of primary interest is located 274 km offshore.
Block 3B/4B is located to the west of block 3A/4A and the area of primary interest currently identified on this block is 379 km offshore.
BHP Billiton has been keen to carry out a West Coast drilling programme for some time, but has had to await fiscal and regulatory certainty.
Globally, BHP Billiton Petroleum has been focusing on drilling high-impact wells in locations including the Gulf of Mexico, Malaysia, Australia, the Falklands and Canada, while continuing to target new opportunities.