Shell free to proceed with seismic survey off South Africa after court win

Oil major Shell is free to go ahead with its planned seismic surveys along the eastern coast of South Africa after the court dismissed an 11th-hour legal challenge by environmental groups which claim that the activities will cause irreparable harm to the marine environment in the region.

Shell (For illustrative purposes only)

The seismic survey, initially scheduled to begin on 1 December, will include the discharge of pressurized air to generate sound waves for the exploration of petroleum resources.

To remind, the five-month campaign has been facing strong opposition from environmentalists and fishermen, who claim that it would harm marine life, especially since the timing of the survey is during the migration season for humpback whales.

The African Energy Chamber, an association representing the interests of the African oil and gas industry, supports the court decision, stating that after 325 seismic surveys conducted by the oil giant globally there is no evidence that suggests that these forms of surveys cause irreparable harm to the environment as there are no reports of death or harm to local ecosystems or marine life.

“South Africa needs energy. That’s the bottom line. The court’s refusal to stop Shell’s exploration activities on the basis that doing so will cause irreparable harm to the environment is seen as a victory for those who wish to see Africa pull itself out of energy poverty,” said NJ Ayuk, executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber.

“Africa deserves the opportunity to capitalize on its own oil and gas resources, and we must be able to exploit these resources in order to benefit from our continent’s full potential.”

South Africa needs much more energy, and Shell’s investment in the country will help fix the country’s current energy crisis, the Chamber said, adding that the population and its businesses need low-cost reliable energy that will enable millions of locals to benefit from the miracles of an industrialized economy.

Offshore Energy has contacted Shell seeking more information about the matter but has not yet received a reply.

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To remind, Shell hired Shearwater Geoservices to carry out the 3D seismic survey within its Transkei Exploration Area off the East Coast of South Africa from 1 December.

The 126-meter long Amazon Warrior, which arrived in Cape Town harbor at the end of November, is supposed to acquire more than 6,000 sqkm of 3D seismic data.

The Transkei block is situated north-east of Algoa in the Natal Trough Basin where highly material prospectivity associated with several large submarine fan bodies has been identified, set to be explored with focused 3D seismic data and then potential exploratory drilling.

As reported last week, Shell recently decided not to progress the investment in the controversial Cambo offshore development, following opposition from environmentalists and widespread discussions about whether the UK should continue developing new fossil fuels projects as it is working to become net-zero by 2050.