TotalEnergies is ploughing half of its 2023 global exploration budget into an imminent exploration and appraisal drilling blitz in Namibia to prove that last year’s Venus-1 wildcat opened up a commercial multibillion-barrel oil play.

A year ago, the day before Russia invaded Ukraine, Upstream broke the news that the French supermajor had made a huge ultra-deepwater discovery in the Orange basin, with sources suggesting it could hold between 3 billion and 12 billion barrels of oil.

Since then, chief executive Patrick Pouyanne has been coy about the scale of the discovery, but today, in the company’s quarterly results call, while still expressing caution, he described the acreage is a “potential new golden block.”