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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. 

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