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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

A new approach to offshore resource exploration / South Africa.

Posted By: Ian McLachlan
Date: Thursday, 5 August 1999, at 10:24 a.m.

Key words: oil and gas, permitting process.


This wise practice describes a generic Environmental Management Programme for oil and gas exploration in the South African offshore. Once approved by a process of public participation and submission to the Department of Minerals and Energy for formal approval, the generic Environmental Management Programme Report (EMPR) will provide a template for the compilation of specific EMPRs by each separate holder of a Prospecting Permit. Each specific EMPR will constrain what a company may and may not do. Standard Project Close-out Reports require listing of deviations from agreed performance and actions taken to prevent recurrence. Volumes of materials introduced into the environment must be listed (e.g. rock cuttings, drilling mud, oil spills of any size, estimate of associated slick size etc). The seafloor must be left clean after drilling operations and record must be provided of the removal of well-heads.


Separate Generic EMPRs are being compiled for (a) Seismic Surveys, and (b)Prospect Drilling operations. They are being compiled in digital format to facilitate up-dates and will provide:

- An environmental baseline description for the whole of our national offshore region.

- Descriptions of the main operations involved in petroleum exploration (seismic surveys and prospect drilling).

- Descriptions of real and potential impacts on the environment and on other users of the offshore.

- Proposed mitigation.

The Generic EMPRs will also include:

- A schedule of required environmental actions for all operations.

- A digital format for the compilation of specific EMPRs for each licenced offshore operator (South African law requires that each holder of a prospecting permit must submit a environmental management programme for its area of operation).

- A digital format for the compilation of operation close-out reports.


- The generic EMPRs will standardise operational requirements and mitigation as far as possible.

- They will reduce the need to duplicate information (in the specific EMPRs) that is already contained in the generic EMPRs.

- They will shift the emphasis from environmental descriptions to monitoring, reporting, active environmental management and auditing by the Department of Minerals and Energy.

- By using standard formats, the cost and time for compilation of specific EMPRs and close-out reports to will be reduced.

- The standardisation of reports (and the reduction in duplication of data) will assist the Department of Minerals and Energy in its task of assessing and commenting on the reports.

- The close out reports will be used to assess environmental impacts more objectively and to modify the EMPRs accordingly.

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