By Verner Ayukegba, Senior Vice President, African Chamber of Energy
Last month, Angola was reported to be drafting legislation to allow oil, gas and mining activities in 14 national conservation areas, including the Luengue-Luiana National Park, which represents part of the Kavango-Zambezi Transboundary Conservation Area that is spreading across Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe sparked protests by environmental groups. Local environmentalists were outraged, probably tired of the test drilling that had started days earlier on the Namibian side of the Okavango Delta, an internationally recognized biodiversity hotspot.
On January 21, Angola’s Minister of Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas, HE Diamantino Pedro Azevedo responded, providing clarifications in which he indicated that the strict environmental legislation in force in Angola would be complied with and the interests of local populations would be safeguarded, like the country. carries out an upcoming public tender for the evaluation of several inland basins. Angolan industry regulator Agência Nacional de Petróleo, Gás e Biocombustíveis (ANPG) has also provided further clarification.
“It was necessary to review the legislation on protected areas, but this does not mean the end of biodiversity,” said Minister Azevedo. “It is necessary to explore these resources, the solution is balance. We are sensitive to environmental problems, but we are also rational. There are those who, due to political interests, defend extreme positions, but in politics it is necessary to be rational ”.
As the second largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa, Angola has taken one of the most balanced approaches to global environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards in the region when it comes to oil and gas exploration, placing environmental protections and continuous production of hydrocarbons. on an equal footing within its constitution and national agenda. Angola’s 2010 constitution in articles 12 and 24 explicitly describes the protection of the environment, providing a basis for the country’s Environmental Framework Law. According to article 12,… .. The State will promote the protection and conservation of natural resources by guiding the exploitation and use of them for the benefit of the community as a whole. … And according to article 24, all citizens have the right to live in a healthy and uncontaminated environment. The State shall take the necessary measures to protect the environment and the national flora and fauna species throughout the national territory and maintain ecological balance. Acts that directly or indirectly damage or endanger the conservation of the environment will be sanctioned by law.
Offshore exploration, especially during the boom years from 2002 to 2008, made Angola one of the world’s most prized destinations for the oil and gas industry. Production rose to almost 2 million barrels a day, providing Angola with much-needed resources for its post-conflict reconstruction and making the country the second largest oil producer in Africa. These boom years were also possible because Angola provided and continues to provide an environmental framework unsurpassed worldwide. It is the industry standard, particularly in a country that is home to all the major international oil companies, that the highest environmental standards are adhered to when companies engage in exploration projects in Angola. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) plans required by the Angolan regulator (currently ANPG) are among the highest standards in the industry, compared to other basins such as Brazil and Mexico. In Angola, these assessments must comply with a plethora of decrees and regulations that include mandatory public consultations, environmental audits, restrictions on biodiversity, water and waste management. It is worth mentioning that there were no major environmental disasters and some of the new exploration technologies and techniques developed in Angola under these strict regulations were exported to other basins for the improvement of the entire industry.
Of the approximately 520,000 km² of inland sedimentary basins in Kassanje and Etosha / Okavango, the two regions in question, only 20% are in protected areas and only five percent of protected areas are being considered for exploration and activities. responsible production, following the completion of environmental due diligence.
Yes, the proposed law will have implications for protected areas. Its objective is to further guarantee their protection while advancing the oil and gas activity in the country in a responsible manner and in accordance with the Angolan constitution. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), carried out in coordination with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and the Environment. – aims to ensure the protection of the rich biodiversity of Angola. By identifying and evaluating the impact of potential projects on the given ecosystem, as well as presenting appropriate mitigation measures, the EIA serves as a tool for making environmentally informed decisions regarding the division, allocation and development of resource-rich basins. Furthermore, exploration activities will be prioritized in areas outside the environmental protection zones and drilling will only be carried out if no minimal or no impact on the ecosystem is found.
It is worth noting that surface samples of crude oil and gas have already been collected in certain parts of the Kassanje and Etosha / Okavango inland basins, where there is a high probability of the presence of hydrocarbons. Denying the acquisition of greater geological knowledge of the area not only erodes the basic principle of resource sovereignty – that each State has the right to know the existing resources in its territory – but also attempts to make a unilateral decision on behalf of the wider population. population.
The bases of the bill have been laid both in the National Development Plan 2018-2022 and in the revised Hydrocarbon Exploration Strategy 2020-2025, authorized by Presidential Decree 282/20, which seeks to intensify, investigate and geologically evaluate concessions and sediment-free areas. sinks.
In this regard, Angola’s regulator is ensuring stability and transparency, which is in stark contrast to other major hydrocarbon producers, where regulation is politically driven and does not always ensure environmental considerations. For example, former President of the United States, Donald Trump, authorized the lease of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 1,790 km² of protected ecosystem in Alaska, two weeks before leaving office, while newly elected President Joe Biden responded with an immediate moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal land. Angola seeks to establish a long-term institutional framework that takes into account environmental considerations and ensures that hydrocarbon exploration is carried out in a socially responsible manner as it occurs, when it occurs.
Given the increasing role of ESG criteria in reducing risk and attracting global investors, coupled with increasing pressure on energy companies to “green” their portfolios, multinational oil and gas companies and the National Agency Angolan Oil, Gas and Biofuels are well aware of the implications of fossil fuels. boost investments both for their companies and for the country. As a result, the ANPG, under the leadership of industry veteran Paulino Jerónimo, and the multinationals have strengthened their commitment to ensuring environmental due diligence, conducting impact assessments, implementing stricter environmental preservation measures, and preventing or eliminating oil spills. , water pollution, carbon emissions, and habitat alteration associated with oil and gas drilling. In other words, the decision to develop any area will not be taken lightly, nor will Angola seek any development without taking into account the interests of the local community and the environmental impact of such development.
This article is published by Africa Oil & Power for Angola’s oil and gas regulator, Agência Nacional de Petróleo, Gás e Biocombustíveis.