Wild Coast oil exploration: Changes in circumstances justify revoking environmental permission

FF Plus

Wild Coast oil exploration: Changes in circumstances justify revoking environmental permission
Wild Coast oil exploration: Changes in circumstances justify revoking environmental permission

The controversial exploration process for oil and gas, with which the international oil company Wild Coast exploration for gas and oil wants to commence along the Wild Coast, should be subjected to an environmental impact study once again. When permission was initially granted in 2013, the Department of Environmental Affairs was not part of the process.

Today, however, the Department’s participation would be required and other related factors have changed as well.

The proposed seismic survey methods used to determine if oil and gas reserves are present under the ocean floor may sound harmless. But what it comes down to is that a ship will move back and forth across an area of about six thousand square kilometers while initiating seismic waves at frequent intervals.

Specialised equipment will track the movement of these sound waves to construct an image of what is going on beneath the ocean floor. Consequently, the area will sound much like a battlefield for months on end.

Experts agree that sound waves affect all sea life, from plankton to large aquatic animals, like whales. And although no clear evidence linking seismic explorations to beached whales exists, studies are not able to completely eliminate that possibility.

It is, furthermore, difficult to determine the impact that such methods have on sea life deep below the surface, where little to no light reaches. What is, however, known is that animals that live at that depth rely mainly on their sense of hearing to determine their direction.

In a world that is solely dependent on crude oil and natural gas for all its energy needs, taking such a risk could possibly by justified. But the reality is that renewable energy, especially the production of green hydrogen, is showing great promise to end the modern economy’s dependence on fossil fuels.

At present, the reported reserves of crude oil are enough to last the world another 47 years and natural gas another 52 years. So, looking for and finding new oil and gas fields does not have the same urgency as just a decade or two ago.

Shell now wants to commence with seismic exploration nearly nine years after permission was obtained. But the regulatory system has changed in the interim, because now permission must not only be obtained from the Department of Mineral Resources, but also from the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries.

In addition, the wider context of energy generation and energy prospects has also changed significantly.

Thus, the FF Plus believes that it is of the utmost importance that permission for this project is revoked and that it is assessed again.

Read the original article in Afrikaans by Dr. Wynand Boshoff on FF Plus