Sunbird: Ibhubesi Natural Gas Development Project (2003-current)


Forest Exploration International was awarded a production license to extract hydrocarbons from the Ibhubesi gas field located off the west coast of South Africa. The Ibhubesi Gas Field is located in License Block 2A off the West Coast of the South Africa. The Production Right area is approximately 5 000 km2 in extent and is located, at its closest point, approximately 60 km off the Northern Cape coast in water depths of between 200 m and 250 m. Forest are first to market in the natural gas industry in the Western Cape and this coupled with the recent amendments to, and changing focus of, the Petroleum and Minerals Resources Development Act, bring to bear many challenges for this initial market scoping and exploration.

OneWorld Sustainable Investments was appointed to develop a social plan and to integrate the social, environmental and macroeconomic components for a successful production right application in order to deal with various challenges related to project understanding and awareness amongst stakeholder groups. For example, early community stakeholder engagement processes demonstrated that the impacted communities were enthusiastic about the development, but awareness and understanding of project timelines and direct employment opportunities was generally low. The project has an anticipated lifetime of 20 years. The project is made up of offshore and onshore operations and each of the components has a construction and operational phase. Development will entail a sub-sea scheme with offshore compression and production facilities. A seafloor export pipeline will carry the products from the Ibhubesi field to the coast (to come onshore at a still to be decided point), and on to treatment and compression facilities in Saldanha where there will be further processing.

The Social and Labour Plan (S&LP) was developed by OneWorld (2008 – 2011) to ensure that perceived negative impacts are offset within the scope and capability of Forest, and positive impacts are enhanced. The S&LP comprises two distinct components; the Labour Plan and the Social and Economic Development Plan, which aims to enhance economic development in the Northern and Western Cape, whilst providing secure and career enhancing employment for workers. The plan was stakeholder-led and included desktop analysis, macro and micro socio-economic analysis, and legislature and institutional analysis. In 2013, the SA government approved transfer of the offshore licence to Sunbird Energy Ltd – which acquired a 76% interest in the production licence from Forest Oil/Anschutz Corporation. The balance is held by PetroSa.

Sunbird and its partner, PetroSA, currently have in place an Environmental Authorisation and hold a Production Right to develop the Ibhubesi Gas Field. OneWorld continues to play an active role in supporting the development of relevant documentation for Sunbird, and is currently working on a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) that takes into account outcomes of the visual risk and air quality specialist studies. The draft SIA is an initial step towards a full SIA on the Ibhubesi gas field development off the West Coast of South Africa on behalf of CCA Environmental. This document identifies some of the external stakeholders that may be impacted by this development and outlines their socio-economic and demographic profiles. It also highlights the skills and educational profile of the communities likely to supply labour for the project. Due to previous experience on this project, OneWorld has also projected the potential socio-economic impacts of the project, along with potential issues that may need to be mitigated. Further information is required to complete the SIA, most importantly from the project lead, Sunbird Energy, and through stakeholder engagements.

Project Data

Client: CCA Environmental

Project duration: 2003 - current

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