OPINION: One of the few rays of light in a gloomy global exploration scene is southern Africa, where French supermajor Total is blazing the way ahead.

Total last year opened up the Outeniqua basin off South Africa with its Brulpadda discovery and has now launched a follow-up, multi-well exploration campaign.

The Luiperd-1X probe is drilling ahead off the country's south coast, with the next well set to target the nearby Blassop structure, while a true wildcat is being eyed for the huge Kloofpadda prospect.

Off neighbouring Namibia, excitement is building about the French giant’s upcoming Venus-1 wildcat, where drilling is due to start later this year, aiming for a major ultra-deepwater prospect in the Orange basin.

Other oil and gas players active in both the Namibian and South African sectors of the basin will wait with bated breath to find out this well’s result.

If Venus-1 is successful, it will trigger a wave of new exploration in a long-neglected play that has so far hosted marginal discoveries.

Also in the fourth quarter, Total looks set to drill a probe in Block 48 off Angola in what will be a new world record water depth of 3628 metres.

The supermajor will likely want to hit oil in these deep-water prospects.

However, gas is no longer the unwanted child of the hydrocarbon family and will be welcomed in all three countries — particularly energy-short South Africa — if it is found in sufficient quantities.

If you want some bang for your exploration buck, then southern Africa and Total are a good bet.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)