Natural gas pipeline and floating gas terminal proposed for St Helena Bay on Cape West Coast

A Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) may be permanently moored in St Helena Bay as part of the South African government’s plans to expand oil and gas exploration, extraction and infrastructure under the the umbrella of its ‘Operation Phakisa’ Oceans Economy initiative.


A Pretoria-based company, Cepheus Energy, is behind a proposal to station a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) in St Helena Bay on the Cape West Coast.


As per the project’s Background Information Document (BID) published in May 2021, the FSRU “will be permanently moored within the St. Helena Bay, approximately 10 km off the town of Velddrif and the settlements of Dwarskersbos and St. Helena Bay, at a depth of approx. 20 m below the mean sea level (msl). Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), at the temperature below -162 ̊C and under near atmospheric pressure, will be delivered to the FSRU by LNG carriers. The FSRU will store the LNG within its cryogenic tanks and then will re-gasify the LNG to natural gas (NG).”


“The purpose of the proposed Cepheus FSRU is to secure sustainable fuel required to add new capacity for the generation of electrical energy to the national electricity supply, in compliance with the Minister of Energy's Determinations and to meet the ‘electricity consumptions’ growth’ of the Western Cape Province,” the BID document also states.


“FSRU facilities are typically located offshore on a custom-built or converted liquid natural gas (LNG) carrier which is permanently moored at a sea island offshore jetty. The FRSU is replenished by LNG carriers that moor alongside and transfer LNG via a cryogenic pipeline to the FSRU storage tanks. The LNG is regasified on the FSRU and the gas is transported from the facility to the primary gas transmission pipelines and on to the market.”- SA Natural Gas Infrastructure Planning (2016).


The scope of the Cepheus FSRU project also includes a subsea gas pipeline from the FSRU to a facility on the nearby coast. “Natural Gas from the Cepheus FSRU will be delivered to the planned Vortum Thermal Power Plant and/or to the Auriga Thermal Power Plant and/or to the industrial areas of Saldanha/St Helena/Besaansklip and/or to the Port of Saldanha Bay/St Helena by means of a subsea and surface gas pipeline,” states the BID document.

“Three subsea gas pipeline alternative routes have been identified, and differs (sic) between 10.0 km, 10.6 km and 11.3 km subsea, depending on the location of the FSRU and the proposed land access point.”


According to Jacolette Adam of Exigent Engineering Consultants, Interested and Affected Parties (IA&Ps) still have time to register their interest and / or objections to the project this month at SthelenaFSRU@exigent.co.za


As per the BID, Exigent has been appointed by Cepheus as the EAP (Environmental Assessment Practitioners), “to identify and assess potential environmental impacts, proposing appropriate mitigation and management measures as part of an Environmental Management Programme (EMPr).”


“Specialist studies will be conducted to identify all potentially significant impacts,” continues the BID document. “These impacts will be all analysed singularly and cumulatively to exclude the risk of fatal flaws and potential threats, if any, as well as to recommend adequate and effective mitigation measures.”


Like all hydrocarbon developments, FSRUs and gas pipelines carry with them several potential risks and threats to the local environment and population.


According to local sources, the population of St Helena Bay and surrounding areas have up until now been largely unaware of this proposal, which is part of the South African government’s plans to expand oil and gas exploration, extraction and infrastructure, under the the umbrella of its controversial ‘Operation Phakisa’ Oceans Economy initiative.


The St Helena area has been identified as one of several “pipeline corridors” in the country, many of them in highly populated or ecologically sensitive areas. “Oil and gas exploration and production could result in impacts on marine life and thereby increase the risks of loss of livelihoods in fishing and tourism industries,” states The Green Connection, a South African NGO dedicated to opposing oil gas exploration in the country.


“There is a risk to the health of individuals living in close proximity to oil and gas industrial sites. Affected by environmental impacts such as the contamination of air and water, people’s

health can also be affected negatively through gas flaring,” adds The Green Connection.


“We find that there is scant evidence from elsewhere in Africa that the exploitation of oil and gas resources naturally leads to improvements in the lives of those living and working in oil and gas rich areas. In fact… it normally leads to a wholesale deterioration in living conditions for the vast majority of citizens who live and work in such areas,” continues The Green Connection, citing its recent report on the industry, available here.


While local residents have now been alerted to this proposed project by our organisation, Protect The West Coast urges anyone who has a vested interest or otherwise to register as an Interested and Affected Party (IA&P) at SthelenaFSRU@exigent.co.za as soon as possible.


While our primary mandate is to fight mining in the region, Protect The West Coast will be shedding further light on the additional potential threat oil and gas exploration and development poses to the people and environment of the West Coast in the near future, so watch this space.


By Miles Masterson, Media Liaison, Protect The West Coast