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Exploration Activities Map

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History Of Exploration And Production

The first organised search for hydrocarbons in South Africa was undertaken by the Geological Survey of South Africa in the 1940's. In 1965 Soekor (Pty) Ltd was formed by the government and began its search in the onshore areas of the Karoo, Algoa and Zululand Basins.

In 1967 a new Mining Rights Act was passed and offshore concessions were granted to a number of international companies including Total, Gulf Oil, Esso, Shell, ARCO, CFP and Superior. This led to the first offshore well being drilled in 1969 and the discovery by Superior of gas and condensate in the Ga-A1 well situated in the Pletmos Basin.

In 1970, Soekor (together with Rand Mines) extended its efforts to the offshore but, despite further encouraging discoveries, international companies gradually withdrew. This was largely as a result of political sanctions against South Africa. Thus from the mid 1970's to the late 1980's Soekor, the State owned oil and gas exploration company, was the sole explorer operating the entire offshore area of South Africa. The offshore areas were opened to international investors via a Licensing Round held in 1994.

In 1999 Petroleum Agency SA was established and in 2001 a new State oil company, PetroSA, was formed by the merger of Soekor and Mossgas.

The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act was passed in 2002, and became operational on 1 May 2004.

In the entire offshore area there are now over 300 exploration wells including appraisal and production wells. In addition 233 000 km of 2D seismic data and 10 200 km2 of 3D seismic data have been acquired since exploration began offshore.

Exploration drilling was most active from 1981 to 1991 during which period some 181 exploration wells were drilled. The Bredasdorp Basin has been the focus of most seismic and drilling activity since 1980.

The results of this exploration are the discovery of several small oil and gas fields, and the commercial production of oil and gas from the Bredasdorp Basin. In the Pletmos Basin there are two undeveloped gas fields and a further six gas discoveries. One oil and several gas discoveries have been made in the South African part of the Orange Basin. 


Petroleum Exploration Information and Opportunities

In any economic analysis, South Africa stands out as the most developed nation in Africa as well as one of the richest.

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Exploration Opportunity Brochures


Gamtoos Basin
The onshore-offshore Gamtoos basin is one of five Mesozoic sedimentary sub-basins of the greater Outeniqua Basin situated along the southern margin of South Africa.

Orange Basin
The Orange Basin lies off the west coast of Southern Africa and covers an area of approximately 
160 000km2, defined by its infill post-rift sediments.

East Coast Basin
The Tugela study area, comprising 48798 km2, contains 14 exploration licence blocks 2500 km2 in areal extent, and 8 partial blocks.

Northern Pletmos Basin
The Pletmos Basin is one of 5 sub-basins situated in the Outeniqua Basin off the south coast of South Africa (Figure 1) and covers approximately 18000 km2.

Western Bredasdorp Basin
The western extent of the Bredasdorp Basin has significant hydrocarbon potential.



Petroleum Potential of the Karoo Basins
The Karoo Supergroup of Late Carboniferous to Middle Jurassic age (320-180 Ma) occupies half of South Africa's surface area...

Regional Compilation of Gravity & Magnetic Data
The Petroleum Agency SA (PASA) acts as the regulator for petroleum exploration onshore and offshore South Africa.

Coalbed Methane Resource Potential
Permian high-volatile bituminous coal deposits in the northern Karoo-aged basins comprises a potential energy resource for South Africa.

Biogenic Gas Resource Potential
Development of a natural gas resource in the Free State, South Africa.



The Promotion Division is responsible for attracting oil and gas exploration investment to South Africa and for quantifying South Africa's oil and gas resources. We comprise a small group of earth scientists, drafting and support staff, who work with exploration data to identify and advertise new opportunities for investment and to reduce risk for prospective operators. We advertise these opportunities through displays at international oil and gas conventions and exhibitions, country and company visits, advertisements and our data room at our offices in Cape Town. There are two departments in the division, viz. the Conventional Resource Management Department and the Unconventional Resource Management Department.

The Unconventional Resource Department is responsible for evaluating and attempting to quantify the potential of the offshore beyond the reach of current exploration technology, as well as that of the onshore Karoo Basin where very little exploration has taken place to date and existing data is very old, so that the basin's potential is still poorly understood. The Unconventional Resource team is concerned with conventional as well as future sources of hydrocarbon resource such as gas hydrates offshore and coalbed methane and shale gas onshore.

The Conventionla Resource Department is responsible for evaluating and quantifying the potential of the offshore areas around South Africa that can be exploited through current exploration and production technology. This department is tasked with the identification of exploration opportunities in this area and for facilitating the entry of new explorers into the South African upstream industry. A major responsibility is the upkeep of a quantified and risked inventory of exploration opportunities.

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