French supermajor Total will face major challenges if it decides to push ahead with developing its deep-water Brulpadda gas and condensate discovery off South Africa.

Adewale Fayemi, managing director of Total’s South Africa E&P business, highlighted key measures that were put in place when drilling the wildcat re-entry probe in the southern hemisphere summer, hinting at the challenges that lie ahead for any potential development.

Fayemi said instrumentation measured the 100-kilometre-wide surface Agulhas current moving at rates up to three metres per second, while wind speeds frequently hit 23 metres per second, and significant wave heights reached 7.5 metres.

Such was the current speed - and marking an industry first - Fayemi told Africa Oil Week delegates that an anchor-handler was used to keep the drilling rig in position.

He also remarked that even though the semi-submersible Deepsea Stavanger was stationary, it generated a wake because of the Agulhas current.

In addition, a high frequency onshore radar installation gave warnings to the drilling crew when rogue waves were forecast.

Because of these harsh metocean conditions, engineering sources have told Upstream that developing Brulpadda will be an enormous challenge.

Some observers suggest it will be all but impossible to exploit using conventional technologies, questioning the ability to safely and accurately install subsea production systems and pipelines and ensuring the stability of a floating production system - if one is required - and how it will hold position.

Located in Block 11b/12B, the Brulpadda well encountered 57 metres of net gas condensate pay in Lower Cretaceous reservoirs.

Following the success of the main objective, the well was deepened to a final depth of 3633 metres and was also successful in the Brulpadda-deep prospect.

Based on fresh 3D seismic data, a new exploration campaign is due to start in the first quarter of next year in an effort to establish more hydrocarbon resources.

In addition, said Fayemi, 2D and 3D seismic shoots are due to kick off next month over the unmapped parts of Block 11b/12B, while Total is also beginning to evaluate the read through of Brulpadda - if any – on the prospectivity of its other South African acreage.