Sasol has opted to drop an exploration licence offshore central Mozambique.
The company said it had told the local authorities that it was relinquishing Block 16 & 19. Mozambique awarded the area to Sasol in June 2005.
Sasol said it had opted to exit the block following an evaluation of its exploration potential and pre-feasibility work on the environmental impact assessment (EIA).
Environmental groups welcomed the decision. Marine Megafauna Foundation described Sasol’s withdrawal as “incredible news”. This will help protect the “last remaining viable population of dugong in Africa”.
The deepwater part of the licence was dropped in July 2013. Sasol had retained the shallow water while it carried on working to assess the hydrocarbon potential.
The company commissioned an assessment from Golder & Associates. The environmental consultant carried out a consultation with various stakeholders, including tourism and fisheries.
Sasol said that sustainability was “integral” to how it conducted business. This is “underpinned by our commitment to compliance with all environmental legislation and undertaking any exploration activity in an environmentally responsible manner”.
The shallow water part of the licence was largely covered by an Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA) designation, via the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Critics had accused Sasol of shying away from carrying out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). The contract for the area did not required this.
The environmental assessment identified a number of protected creatures in the area, including dolphins and whales. The block is close to the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (BANP).
Sasol shot 2,050 square km of 3D seismic in 2007 and 2,000 km of 2D in 2008. It drilled two wells, in late 2008 and early 2009, finding gas at the Njika field. The company relinquished the discovery in 2013. Sasol considered this find to be non-commercial.
The company had an 85% stake in the area. It had been working with Petronas, but the Malaysian company dropped out in 2017.
Updated at 4:30 pm with Marine Megafauna Foundation response and IUCN designation.