Multinational oil and gas company Total has halted its oil exploration off the coast of South Africa following a mechanical failure with its rig, a company official said on Tuesday.

South Africa is looking to reduce its reliance on imported oil and this setback will impact the country’s plans to have 30 exploration wells drilled in the next 10 years.

Offshore repair not possible

According to reports, Total will not be able to resume its oil exploration activities until 2016.

“Offshore repair was not possible,” Total’s senior vice-president for exploration and production in Africa Guy Maurice, told delegates at an Africa oil and gas conference organised by Global Pacific & Partners.

Strong winds and currents

The energy company explained that the rig, which is reportedly 175 km off the South African coast, was operating in water depths of 1 500 metres. It was reportedly operating under strong winds and oceans currents.

“The way forward is very clear. We will continue to work on it, to prepare the campaign and to re-enter the well because the operational objective is unchanged,” stated Maurice.

Exploration block

Total is the operator of Block 11B/12B, where it holds a 50% stake in the field with equal partner CNR International, a subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

It started drilling earlier this year in the Outeniqua Basin, about 175 km off the southern coast of South Africa.

Maurice said the rig was operating in tough conditions at water depths of 1 500 metres in an area where strong winds and ocean currents were a challenge off Africa’s southern tip, known by mariners as ‘the Cape of Storms’.

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