South Africa: Junior Oil and Gas Explorers Dive in At the Deep End

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A delay in the publication of enabling legislation is slowing exploration into SA's hydrocarbon industry. Thus the recent issue of six onshore permits came as some surprise.

After years of inertia, the Petroleum Agency SA (Pasa) awarded oil and gas exploration licences covering an area of 30,132km2 to six junior mining companies in October 2019.

The licences entitle the companies to prospect and eventually drill exploratory wells in the Northern Cape, North West and Free State.

Pasa is hoping to capitalise on the revival of interest in oil and gas exploration in South Africa after the announcement in February 2019 that French energy giant Total and its partners had discovered a large gas field off the South African coast.

"We think this [issue of permits] shows that exploration, particularly onshore, is getting the backing it deserves," says Chris Dorrington, MD of ORM Exploration, one of the six companies to receive the licences.

"We have spent the better part of the last 10 months conducting preliminary research into identified anomalous areas with technical co-operation permits and, though very early stage, the results are promising," he says.

There has been very little hydrocarbon exploration activity onshore in South Africa when compared with...

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