PetroSA upbeat about gas exploration

12th September 2017 By: Kim Cloete - Creamer Media Correspondent

SOMERSET WEST ( – Despite a slowdown in exploration and an underinvested industry, South Africa still holds great prospects for exploration in gas, believes PetroSA chief geophysicist Peter Dekker.

He told delegates at the South African Geophysical Association (Saga) conference, in Somerset West, that there were sound fundamentals to justify hydrocarbon exploration.

He said market demand was good given a policy shift away from coal towards renewables and gas, as well as a potentially encouraging investment climate when the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) is finalised.

He said South Africa’s geology was suitable, with “new ideas in old exploration areas”, in particular, coming to the fore, while financiers had shown an interest, although they first want certainty about the regulatory environment.

When legislation is enacted, companies that invest in exploration will stand to benefit greatly from tax breaks once production is up and running.

“It is likely to be a very positive climate, although we are still waiting. People want to know what they are in for before they make investment decisions. They want stability,” Dekker told Mining Weekly Online following his presentation at the conference.

Dekker said certain areas were stirring up interest, including plays up the West Coast near Namibia and the Table Mountain group near Mossel Bay.

Four new plays have been identified in the Bredasdorp basin in the Southern Cape.  

“We’re looking at old places, but [with] new ideas. There must be something in the minibasins. We’re looking at the younger rocks, more on the shelf in Bredasdorp,” said Dekker.

The Table Mountain group was another option, with interesting fractured basement volumes off the coast of Mossel Bay coming to the fore again.

Another interesting area is the Orange basin near Namibia, where University of the Witwatersrand Geology Masters student Vuyolwethu Mahlalela is studying the hydrocarbon potential, using three-dimensional (3D) reflection seismic data. It is the first time 3D data has been acquired in the deep-water environment of the Orange basin. Mahlalela is creating a 3D model of the deep-water environment and comparing it to shallow environment models.

“The data will give a deeper understanding of the deep-water environment, which could potentially lead to the discovery of offshore hydrocarbons,” said Mahlalela.

Dekker has agreed that Mahlalela’s work is in a fascinating area which still holds promise. 

Dekker told delegates at the conference that mature basins still held a lot of potential. He used the North Sea as an example, which is now on its third phase of discoveries. He said even after creaming, major discoveries could be made.

While positive about exploration prospects, Dekker acknowledged the seriously tough times the global oil and gas industry has faced over the past few years. “The industry is underinvested because of low oil prices. Exploration has virtually stopped and 400 000 people have been made redundant in the industry worldwide.”

But, he said, the petroleum industry was a cyclical business and the global drive for cleaner energy would help the prospects of gas.

The International Energy Agency has sketched a scenario in which total energy demand will increase by 31% by 2040. While the share of oil and gas is expected to decrease from 52% to 51%, total energy demand will rise. 

Dekker said 150 exploration wells have been drilled in South Africa to date, resulting in the discovery of three hydrocarbon plays in the country.

He said 30% of the wells drilled have produced oil and gas to the surface. This technical success rate was considered good and compared very favourably with that of other countries.