What’s the problem ?

In South Africa, TotalEnergies is getting ready to set off a new climate bomb: on 5 September 2022, the group applied for a production license to exploit two major gas fields which could contain one billion barrels of oil equivalent off the coast of South Africa[1].

TotalEnergies plans to invest $3 billion to launch drilling operations in South African deep waters, at the expense of small-scale fishers’ livelihoods and spectacular marine biodiversity. The South African coast serves as a ‘blue corridor’ for numerous whale species as well as a feeding and nesting ground for multiple species of birds, marine mammals and turtles[2]. The exploitation zone in consideration also shelters a significant population of snoek (part of the mackerel family) which are crucial to the west coast artisanal fisher economy, while fishers on the southern coast target a great variety of species[3].

A race for fossil fuels despite climate change

In July 2021, the International Energy Agency published its Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector and highlighted that ‘Beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway‘. South Africa’s National Climate Change Response White Paper, as well as experts from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), also recommend a transition to renewable energies where fossil fuels, including gas, are left behind.

The recommendations from the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are unequivocal. The catastrophic consequences of climate change witnessed daily, remind us that an energy transition based on the extraction of gas, encouraged by the greed of fossil fuel companies, diverts financial resources away from a much-needed transition to renewables.

Protest organized by The Green Connection in Saldanha Bay, South Africa, 26 September 2022.

A dangerous precedent

Beyond the prospects of drilling for gas in this block, TotalEnergies’ announcement was considered a game changer insofar as it proved that “South Africa, though underexplored, does have exploration and production potential”, but also because “if Brulpadda and Luiperd are determined to be commercially viable, these discoveries could launch the South African oil and gas industry to the next level and attract much needed investment”[4]. Indeed, these two discoveries have launched the whole fossil fuel industry, as well as TotalEnergies, into a race against the clock to lay their hands on South Africa’s resources; in a rush that is also catching South Africa’s civil society off-guard at a time when it is vital to avoid a climatic, environmental and social lock-in of the South African energy policy currently on a trajectory reliant on gas for power generation.

Map of oil exploration and production activities in South Africa, according to the Petroleum Agency of South Africa, 1 September 2022.


→ Find out more on South Africa’s position on fossil fuels by reading our press file



[1] In July 2022, TotalEnergies had already filed an environmental impact assessment application ahead of the drilling of five exploration wells in a previously untouched area of deep water off the coast of South Africa, between Cape Town and Cape Agulhas. Since March 2022, the company has also been involved in multiple seismic surveys off the west coast of South Africa.

[2] The area is home to humpback whales, southern right whales, sperm and blue whales, Cape fur seals, Cape penguins, petrels and albatrosses. It is also a nesting area for leatherback turtles and Cape gannets.

[3] Species such as squid and cusk

[4] CDH (10 February 2021) The Brulpadda and Luiperd gas discoveries: A game changer for South Africa’s petroleum offshore exploration.

Share :

Comments are closed.