Total gears up for exploration well in French Guiana waters despite Greenpeace criticism

French oil company Total has filed an application with the Prefecture of Guiana to drill an offshore exploration well in early 2019 despite objections by Greenpeace over claims that the Amazon Reef extends to French Guiana waters. 

The French Guiana Maritime permit extends over more than 24,000 km2 beyond the Guianese continental shelf and largely in the deep sea area. The planned drilling project in early 2019 is located about 150 km from the nearest coast and 170 km from Cayenne.

Total said that, in preparation for the drilling operation, a detailed study of the initial environmental state was conducted and attached to the application for drilling authorization.

However, during its recent expedition aboard the vessel Esperanza, the environmental group Greenpeace said it had identified reef structures off Guiana.

“The team of scientists involved in the research are confident to say that these reef structures are part of the Amazon Reef. This unique biome could be threatened by a spill in case French company Total starts drilling for oil in Brazilian waters,” Greenpeace recently said.

Total reminded on Monday, May 14 that it conducted a broad oceanographic campaign in October 2017 with specialized teams and experts from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

This campaign highlighted the existence of a discontinuous rocky plateau, with some shoals, partly covered with sand, and with scattered biological stands, which have been the subject of hundreds of samples for study.

This rocky plateau, identified by Total, was the subject of a detailed cartography over an area of ​​650 km2. It is located at almost 100 meters of water depth while the drilling area is located in more than 2,000 meters of water depth and is located 30 kilometers from the rocky plateau.

Total added that its study of the initial environmental state would be made public by the authorities.

Helena Spiritus, campaigner at Greenpeace Brazil, said: “We are seeing now that there’s still a lot to discover, not only in Brazil but also in French Guiana where the reef was also unexpected. This revelation makes it even more important to protect this biome against oil exploration. Brazil and France should join their forces to protect this unique ecosystem.”

Total’s exploration drilling campaign is limited to four months with an aim to confirm the possible presence of hydrocarbons before deciding on a possible phase of development and exploitation.

It is worth reminding that Total recently said it found no evidence of “biogenic formation” in the Foz do Amazonas basin off Brazil, following reports that the Greenpeace has found “rhodolith beds” near the same area where Total plans to drill for oil.

According to Total, the planned exploration well in Block FZA-M-57 (ca1800m water depth) will be 28 km away from the rodholith beds previously identified and 34 km away from the location where the NGO would have found rhodoliths more recently.

Offshore Energy Today Staff