Onshore oil and gas in Namibia: let the people decide
On day 23 of the WhyAfrica Southern Africa Road Trip, we visited ReconAfrica’s oil and gas exploration well close to the small village of Ncaute, Kavango Region in Namibia, about 120km south of Rundu, where the company has deployed its Jarvie Rig 1 on its third exploration drill site.
By Leon Louw owner and editor of WhyAfrica
Although there are strong indications that point towards an oil and gas find, it is extremely important to be aware that this project is in a very early exploration phase and that data is still being processed.
The fact that hydrocarbons are present in a petroleum basin, does not mean that the company has made a significant oil and gas discovery.
Moreover, if commercially viable oil is found, it will take at least another five to ten years before the well starts producing.
ReconAfrica’s project is controversial for several reasons. For one, hydrocarbons are not in fashion at the moment. Furthermore, this find is the first discovery of onshore oil and gas in Namibia, although the country’s offshore resources, and the onshore and offshore oil deposits of its northern neighbour Angola, is well known.
The project is in the Kavango Region which is associated with the Okavango Delta, a world heritage site. Although some concerns about the environmental and social impact are valid, there are a few points that must be made very clear and that might have been misrepresented in media reports and by several activists.
Consider all facts and arguments
The three wells where exploration drilling is currently taking place, is not in or near the Okavango Delta in Botswana. It is at least 220km from the start of what is known as the Panhandle where the Kavango River, which starts in Angola, splits into the three main channels at the villages of Sepopa/Etsha 6 and Seronga (I know this as I have worked in this area for many years).
In fact, the project site is about 90km south of the Kavango River’s main channel which flows through Rundu and forms the border between Namibia and Angola. Secondly, the Kavango River is not fed by underground acquirers as is the case with ephemeral rivers further south in the dry Namib desert.
The catchment area is in the Angolan highlands where the river starts as the Cubango before it becomes the Kavango in Namibia and Botswana. There are no river courses, dry river beds or runoff channels anywhere close to ReconAfrica’s drilling sites.
There are so many other factors to consider before any person or organisation can outright condemn the drilling for hydrocarbons, but then again, as all extractive activities, it will have environmental and social impacts, which is being addressed and managed by a very competent and local ReconNamibia team.
In the end, it is not for me, any western government, foreign activists, or oil companies to decide the fate of this project or the fate of Namibia and its energy vision, and whether it should include oil and gas or not. The Namibian people and communities must decide without the intimidation and interference of unscrupulous agents of various organisations.
Believe me, these communities are well aware of the benefits and of the potential negative impacts of the development. Let’s be pragmatic, listen and try to understand all arguments and for one minute, put ourselves in the shoes of somebody else and not pursue our own selfish goals.
Let’s step aside and allow the people of Namibia, and especially the communities in the Kavango Region, to make decisions about their own future, they are more than capable of doing that.
There will be more in-depth information about the project in the upcoming WhyAfrica magazine and also in WhyAfrica’s research reports, which you can purchase towards the end of the year.
The WhyAfrica Southern Africa Overland Road Trip will take us through five countries in 44 days. During this time, we will drive more than 9700km on the good roads, the bad roads, dirt roads and tarred roads, to visit close to 30 projects in the mining, agriculture, energy, infrastructure, tourism, conservation, and development sectors.
This trip is made possible by:
Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.
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