Wild Coast Seismic Survey
Seismic Update: Shell respects the court decision in relation to the Wild Coast survey and has suspended the survey while we review the judgement (28/12/21)
Shell has a proud history in South Africa and will celebrate 120 years of operations locally in 2022. While our local history has been primarily related to downstream operations, we see ourselves as a corporate citizen committed to nation building and a key contributor to South Africa’s Just Energy Transition.
Shell’s planned 3D seismic survey off the Wild Coast aims to explore potential hydrocarbon reserves beneath the seabed. South Africa is currently highly reliant on energy imports for many of its energy needs. Should viable resources be found offshore, this could significantly contribute to South Africa’s energy security and the government’s economic development programmes.
Shell is a responsible and leading operator and applies stringent controls and international best practice guidelines to its operations. Procedures for managing impact from seismic activities are well established and in line with the latest global industry standards. Shell also contributes to joint industry programmes, including the Sound and Marine Life Joint Industry Programme, which is at the forefront of leading research for sound in the marine environment.
We aim to minimise the impact of our projects on the environment and to be a good neighbour wherever we work, by contributing to the well-being of neighbouring communities. We work closely with them to manage the social impacts of our business activities, address any concerns about our operations, and enhance the benefits that we are able to bring.
AN OPEN LETTER ON SHELL’S ACTIVITIES OFF THE WILD COAST FROM SHELL SA COUNTRY CHAIR, HLONIPHIZWE MTOLO
09 December 2021
In recent days questions and concerns have been raised about Shell’s activities in the ocean off the Wild Coast of South Africa. I want to tell you more about why we are doing this, what it involves and about the safety measures we have put in place to minimise risks to marine life.
Our country currently remains dependent on coal, oil and gas for its energy needs. This means that, as we transition to a lower and eventually a zero-carbon emissions future, we need to continue to provide the energy South Africa needs today. Finding resources offshore could significantly contribute to our energy independence, as well as the government’s economic development programmes, whilst providing many local job opportunities. If South Africa can find its own supplies of offshore gas, this could play a key part in changing our country’s energy mix- which is presently heavily reliant on coal for electricity generation.
Many have expressed concerns about the impact of offshore seismic surveys, so I’d like to share more about them: they are a safe mapping technique for gathering information about whether oil or gas may be present deep below the seabed of a given area using sound waves that are directed downwards. The sound produced during seismic surveys is comparable to many naturally occurring and other man-made ocean sounds, including wind and wave action, rainstorms, marine life, and shipping.
This won’t be the first time a seismic survey is done in South Africa’s seas; around 35 have taken place in recent years with no reported significant negative impact to marine life. Surveys like these have been done for over 50 years with more than 15 years of extensive scientific research. In 2020 alone, there were at least 325 seismic surveys conducted globally with no known harm to marine life as a result of these surveys.
Shell has extensive experience in collecting offshore data from these surveys, globally and in the region, and we continue to take great care to prevent or minimise impacts on fish, marine mammals and other wildlife. We have conducted an environmental study in line with local requirements and obtained a legal permit to carry out the activity, something that was reconfirmed by a court decision last week. Since the judge’s ruling, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy have again confirmed their full support for Shell to proceed with the offshore survey.
I want to reassure you that as a committed and responsible company, caring for our local environment and wildlife is a key part of all our business in everything we do. The survey will be conducted outside of the sensitive environmental window period for migrating whales in South Africa and will also take place between 20km–70km from the shore to ensure that there will be no impact to small scale fishing. We have appointed an independent team to join us onboard the ship conducting the survey who will monitor for the presence of marine mammals before, and during, the seismic activity. If they spot them, we will stop and wait. A variety of additional measures have been put in place, such as starting the sound waves at a lower volume and gradually increasing it before the survey properly begins.
I understand, and share, concerns for the pristine environment that is precious to all South Africans. For more information and answers to your questions, I encourage you to visit our website www.shell.co.za.
Country Chair, Shell South Africa
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the potential impact of the survey on marine life?
2. What are the mitigations Shell has put in place?
3. What does the planned Seismic Survey off the Wild Coast entail?
4. Has Shell received the necessary authorisations to conduct the survey?
5. Why is there a continued search for fossil fuels when we should be moving to clean energy?
6. What is the current status of the survey based on the court judgement on 28 December?
In this section
Vast resources of oil and gas lie deep beneath the ocean’s surface. They have the potential to support economic growth and help meet the world’s growing energy needs.
We develop innovative technologies to find and safely unlock more, and affordable, energy from ever harder-to-reach places.