London and Toronto-listed Eco Atlantic has accelerated this year's drilling schedule for what will be a closely watched exploration well in the South Africa's sector of the Orange basin, targeting 350 million barrels of potential resource.

Originally, the shallow water Gazania-1 probe in Block 2B was set to spud in October, but the semi-submersible rig Island Innovator is now mobilising from Norway in July — instead of August — so the drilling start date has been brought forward to early September.

The drilling operation — in 150 metres of water and 25 kilometres off Northern Cape province — is expected to take 25 days to complete, with the well aiming to reach a depth of about 2800 metres.

Gazania-1 is targeting a rift prospect close to the legacy AJ-1 oil discovery whose reserves are estimated to be about 56 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Eco said the well is anticipated to be low pressure and low temperature, based on the evaluation of all regional wells, adding that environmentally-friendly water-based drilling fluids will be used in the operation which will use Cape Town as its operations base.

The company plans to seal and plug the well after the test with no remaining equipment left on the sea floor, highlighting that the sea floor in the well area was surveyed in 2021 to confirm there are no environmental or culturally sensitive concerns.

In an effort to address heightened concerns in South Africa about offshore oil and gas activities, Eco said it recently held face-to-face meetings with members of local communities and interested organisations.

These have taken place via focus groups and ongoing open meeting forums and aim to share information and involve answering questions.

Eco's chief operating officer Colin Kinley said: “We have worked diligently with our drilling team and partners to define a safe and efficient drilling strategy for Gazania, to define drilling engineering to meet world standards of environmental protection and hopefully give South Africa access to its own oil resources.”

“We acknowledge that South Africa’s energy transition must be thought out from all perspectives," he said, adding that while the required permits are in place for the Gazania-1 operation, Eco "thought it necessary to voluntarily meet with the regional local communities and interested parties to hear out concerns and interests."

Face to face discussions will continue in the coming weeks.

Eco's partners in Block 2B are Africa Energy Corporation, Panoro and Crown Energy.

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