The South African company, SASOL, will come face to face with the greater Durban community this week to discuss oil and gas reserves under the seabed at depths of between 3.8km and 4.8km. Multiple NGOs and environmental organisations have expressed concern regarding plans for offshore oil exploration, due to the risks it poses to marine life, tourism, climate change and potential oil spills.
The meeting was organised by the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA). Sasol and Italian oil and gas corporation company Eni have teamed up for the project. The SDCEA extended an invitation to Sasol to discuss its stance on offshore oil and gas drilling along the KwaZulu-Natal coast, which the environmentalists and community were opposing.
“We need jobs that don’t harm the environment. Oil drilling will have a huge impact and destroy biodiversity. We need to stand up and fight. We have pushed Sasol to come and explain. Initially, the Italians were telling us they were responsible, and we asked how much they owned and they said 40% and the rest, 60%, is for Sasol. They must come and meet us because they hold the majority of the right. We are bringing people from Mozambique who are suffering from the same oil and gas problems. We must tell them ‘not in our name, we don’t want you to come here and destroy our beautiful ocean’,” said environmentalist Desmond D’sa.
Earlier in the year, Zag posted a story titled ‘seismic sea sickness‘ detailing the harmful effects posed by oil and gas exploration that was underway along the KZN coast, as of yet offshore oil has not been found.
The benefits cited in the eventuality of oil and gas reserves being found would be job creation, increased government revenues and the reduced need to import crude oil. A report by Environmental Resources Management revealed that South Africa had a crude oil demand of 600000 barrels a day.
Sasol head of group medial liaison Alex Anderson, confirming the meeting, said: “Eni, our partner, is the operator and the entity managing this process. Sasol is committed to open and transparent engagement with all stakeholders on this project, as it’s an ongoing process over the coming year. We value the engagement and the feedback we receive so that we consider stakeholder concerns into the development of the project. As part of this process, an environmental impact assessment must be undertaken. This is usually undertaken in three phases, a scoping phase, specialist study phase and impact assessment. The project is currently in the specialist study phase”.
An exploration well may be drilled next year, the project forms part of the government’s Operation Phakisa initiative that aims to tap into the economic potential of the ocean.