Shell South Africa: Maintaining a long history of innovation

Last October the news broke that Shell SA was optimistic of its search for oil and gas in the Orange Basin.

At that point the company, the South African arm of Royal Dutch Shell, was set to finalise the interpretation of seismic data collected from the Orange Basin on the west coast, before commencing drilling exploration wells for oil and condensate during 2014.

shutterstock_187412945The exploration area covers approximately 37,000 square kilometres and is located in water between 500 metres and 4,000 metres deep and has so far seen limited exploration activity. The area extends from between 150 to 360 kilometres from the coast. The block’s southern edge is approximately in line with the town of Saldahna and the northern edge just south of Kleinzee. It borders Namibian waters at its northern extent.

The drilling exploration wells would represent a landmark as they would become South Africa’s first deep-water wells.

The company will drill wells deep in the sea, in water depths of more than 2 kilometres, 150km offshore and close to the Namibian Kudu gas field, at an initial cost of $250 million it was reported.

“We’ll be making an investment decision before the end of the year and then reserve a time slot on the drilling machine,” Jan Willem Eggink, Shell South Africa’s GM for upstream business, said at the time. 

Throughout 2013, Shell gathered seismic data using a vessel in the maritime area just south of the Namibian border, and about 80km north of the Ibhubesi gas field.

“We’re searching for oil and condensate in the Orange Basin,” said Mr Eggink. He said that based on its own preliminary investigations, and from old seismic data gathered in the 1960s by the forerunners of PetroSA, the state-owned oil company, Shell believes it “will find something after drilling a few wells. We’ll get the results of the seismic data by the end of the year.”

The pioneering work is nothing new for Shell South Africa (Pty) Ltd., a company that has operated in South Africa since 1902.The business is part of the Shell Group, a global group of energy and petrochemicals companies. With around 93,000 employees in more than 90 countries and territories. Shell aims to help meet the world’s demand for energy in economically, environmentally and socially responsible ways.

The South African organisation employs over 1,500 people and is involved in the Retail and Commercial Fuels, Lubricants and Oils, Chemicals and Manufacturing Sectors.

“Our main business activities in South Africa include Retail and Commercial Fuels, Lubricants and Oils, Chemicals, Manufacturing and Upstream Exploration. Our head offices in South Africa are based in Johannesburg,” states the company website. 

Of course operations today vary greatly from Shell’s first steps in the country, as the corporate website recalls: 

shutterstock_80668552“Shell came to South Africa in 1902.  Shell South Africa’s main focus at the time was on paraffin and kerosene, which brought both light and heat to communities across Southern Africa.

“Throughout its long association with South Africa, Shell has played an important role in the country, not only as a premier oil company, but also as a committed corporate citizen and change agent.

“Today, Shell South Africa has a nationwide Retail network of strategically located service stations, offering our customers a variety of fuels products, as well as friendly service and convenience shopping.

“Our Commercial Fuels and Lubricants division sells diesel, lubricants, illuminating paraffin, bitumen and heavy furnace fuels directly to end users in the transport, construction, manufacturing, mining, marine, agriculture and general consumer markets.

“In the Manufacturing area, the Sapref refinery, jointly owned by Shell and BP, is one of the largest refineries in Africa.

“In Upstream Exploration, Shell South Africa Upstream B.V. holds an exploration right in the Orange Basin Deep Water area, off the country’s west coast and has applications for shale gas exploration rights in the Karoo, in central South Africa.

Other Shell interests in South Africa include Aviation, Chemicals and LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas).” 

Increasingly the company is looking at new ways to innovate and continues to deliver national firsts.

In November Shell launched its upgraded Shell Ultra City in Middleburg, Mpumalanga. The upgrade became the first location in the Shell Ultra City network to achieve new heights of success in the motorway market segment, introducing European and American style multi-branded food-courts such as Fego Caffe, Giramundo’s, Steers, Ocean Basket. 

“Furthermore, a coffee offer in partnership with vida e caffe has been added to the Shell Select Store. Other features include state of the art stylish ablution facilities,” the company confirmed.

“As pioneering experts, Shell was at the forefront of the motorway site concept and was the first oil company to introduce a motorway site to the South African public back in the 1980s.

“The motivation for the motorway site concept was to provide customers with a convenient quality re-fuelling experience, and services whilst they travelled along major national routes.

Fundamental to the upgrade is the provision of a safe and comfortable environment for travellers whether on a business or personal journey,” it continued.

“Shell carried out significant research to understand customer needs, studying global and local trends and investing in innovative design standards. As a result the outcome was that customer needs are evolving, Shell’s heritage in South Africa is to innovate and provide customers with the highest quality fuels and the best experience when visiting Shell service stations. To ensure we are continuing to meet the high expectations of our customers and their future demands we have embarked on an exciting programme to upgrade our Shell Ultra City service stations. These will include state-of-the-art ablution designs, multi-branded sit-down food courts, upgraded Shell Select Stores, branded coffee and food to go offer, children’s play facilities, business facilities, increased parking, as well as our high quality fuels portfolio including Shell V-Power Nitro+, our new and latest premium fuels formulation developed in technical partnership with Scuderia Ferrari” said Farouk Farista, General Manager for Shell South Africa Retail Marketing Pty Ltd. 

The strategic upgrade of the Ultra City Network will be implemented in a phased approach which is anticipated to take place over a period of approximately 5 years, by which time Shell South Africa will have made giant strides towards the next phase of its legacy.