Following an exciting year for oil and gas in South Africa, including the country’s first significant offshore oil find, we sat down to speak with Adrian Strydom, Executive Manager at the South Africa Oil and Gas Alliance (SAOGA). Adrian gave us his take on SA’s energy future, as well as sharing SAOGA’s recent accomplishments and goals for the future.
With the first significant deep-water oil find offshore South Africa earlier this year, 2019 has no doubt been exciting for oil and gas in SA. How do you see the country’s energy landscape developing in the next 3,4,5 years?
The promising find off the South African south coast is indeed significant – Total is now planning to drill more holes in the region early next year. This is good news indeed! South Africa is relatively under-explored for oil and gas and the successful Total find off Mossel Bay is drawing attention to SA as a potential Oil and Gas exploration hub. We are certainly seeing a significant increase in foreign industry interest and welcome the resulting jobs and investment into South Africa.
Gas production on the African continent grew by 8% between 2017 and 2018, however gas has historically been a very small part of South Africa’s energy mix. Do you see this changing in the near-future? How important are gas to power programmes?
Correct. I see gas importation, exploration and production increasing rapidly over the following years. South Africa will become energy hungry as we grow our industrial capacity. I predict that the growth in local and regional gas use will increase significantly.
It makes absolute sense for us to move increasingly to gas as an energy source, both from a cost benefit and a carbon footprint reduction perspective. I believe the next 5 years will see a move away from coal to gas and renewables as complementary energy sources.
What SAOGA project are you most excited about right now?
A current focus for us is improving the readiness of the South African workforce for a gas economy. I’m particularly excited because we’ve just completed a tracking study on the artisans we have developed over the past few years. The study indicates that 95% of the 1000+ trainees who qualified are currently in employment.
That’s certainly impressive, given the fact that SA is currently experiencing very high unemployment (29%).
Yes, the positive feedback we’ve been getting has been very uplifting, for instance, “my hope for a better future is restored.” Or, “my life is becoming better and better”.
What has been the proudest moment of your time at SAOGA to date?
Some of my proudest moments have been when I have been able to see SAOGA beneficiaries flourishing in their careers. Some of them have started their own small businesses; I recently spoke to a company owner who said “the SAOGA ISO standard development initiative helped establish my company as a global player”. I am privileged to work with an amazing team of people at SAOGA who are committed to co-creating a better South Africa with our partners.
Since your background has been partly in education, do you believe that there is a skills gap in the South African E&P industry? Is the country ready to accommodate growth in demand for highly skilled workers?
My response to the first question is yes. However, the gap is relatively small. I have come across many highly skilled South Africans who are working in the E&P industry across the world. We have over the past years focused on developing foundational crosscutting skills and will continue to do so. This makes sense as our E&P industry is in its infancy and we do not want to train young people for unemployment. We need to do some additional work in preparing our workforce for specialised roles in the industry, but this can be done rapidly, as we are definitely not starting from zero.
Looking into the future, how can South African employers encourage young people to choose careers in the energy sector?
It is important for us to map out the kind of skills that are needed. We need to refine our Marine Oil and Gas Academy (MOGA) skills portal to better represent the employment opportunities available in the sector. We also need to promote life long learning principles and work with academic institutions, government and professional bodies to ensure we do not create artificial barriers to growth, preventing say artisans from becoming technicians and engineers.
Finally, what is SAOGA hoping to get out of its partnership with the South Africa Showcase at Africa Oil Week 2019?
It is great that Africa Oil Week is hosting a day-long national pavilion for SA for the first time this year, something SAOGA has fought for! This makes the event more accessible to our local companies. SAOGA companies will have the unique privilege to be exposed to the global oil and gas world, as that world will be coming to Cape Town! SA businesses do not have to re-invent the wheel, we can learn so much from work that has been done globally over many years and improve on it!