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Total’s second major gas find puts SA on the global energy map

Government must act fast to reap the benefits of this discovery, which could attract $40bn in investment – Africa Energy Chamber.
An enabler rig off the coast of Norway; the country has been adept at using its sovereign wealth fund to hedge against oil price volatility and save wealth generated from its petroleum sector. Image: Mikhael Holter, Bloomberg

Last month French energy giant Total announced it had made a significant gas condensate discovery 175km off the southern coast of SA in what is known as the Luiperd prospect.

This follows the 2019 discovery of an estimated one billion barrels of oil equivalent of gas and condensate at Brulpadda, off the coast of Mossel Bay.

Even before the latest Total discovery, the 2019 Brulpadda find was touted as one of the biggest finds globally, and a ‘game changer’ that puts SA on the global energy map.

An analysis by engineering group EPCM Holdings suggests that the billion barrels at Brulpadda is enough to run all of SA’s refineries at a cumulative volume of 700 000 barrels a day for just less than four years. “Mossgas is the only refinery in SA ready and equipped to run on condensate. So it would naturally be assumed that the condensate will be extracted for use in the Mossgas refinery, which couldn’t come too soon, since this refinery has been on the verge of closing down for the last year or two, due to the dwindling gas resources feeding the facility.”

Add to this a potentially even larger find at Luiperd, and it’s clear that SA’s energy matrix has been radically reshaped. The gas discoveries come at a time when Eskom is having to retire its older coal-fired power stations and reduce its carbon output.

Gas as a source of power generation is now a real option.

Total’s Luiperd well was drilled to a total depth of about 3 400 metres and encountered 73 metres of net gas condensate pay in well-developed good quality lower cretaceous reservoirs,” says a statement by Total. “Following a comprehensive coring and logging programme the well will be tested to assess the dynamic reservoir characteristics and deliverability.”

The prospecting block in question covers an area of 19 000km2 at water depths ranging from 200 to 1 800 metres. Total has a 45% interest in the block alongside Qatar Petroleum (25%), CNR International (20%) and Main Street, a SA consortium (10%). Main Street is 49% controlled by Africa Energy. The three international shareholders in this project have large war chests which could be quickly deployed to build the necessary infrastructure to land the gas onshore.

What’s also become clear is how underexplored SA’s offshore basins are. Given the latest find, there’s possibly much more waiting for discovery.

NJ Ayuk, executive chair at the Africa Energy Chamber, says many South Africans seem unaware of the significance of these two gas discoveries.

“These two discoveries put SA on the map as a global gas player. Gas is the future, and is needed as we transition to renewables as a source of energy.”

The timing of the find is near perfect, adds Ayuk.

Move fast, get it right

“As we enter the post-Covid recovery phase, SA needs to move fast and put in place the right incentives and policies to make sure we do not make the mistakes made in Nigeria and Angola.”

And what were those mistakes? Policies that favoured oil companies over the local population, creating massive inequity in the spread of oil wealth, and weak local content requirements which allowed most infrastructure investment to be spent outside the host country.

Ayuk says government needs to move fast to reap the benefits of these finds. “It will have to relook at its BEE codes, its labour laws and will have to offer some kind of incentives for tax and skills training. If we get it right, we can be looking at an investment of $40 billion to $60 billion over the next decade, which makes the IMF loan of $4 billion [that SA has applied for] look insignificant in comparison.”

Ayuk points to the roughly $100 billion investment earmarked for gas extraction off the coast of Mozambique as the kind of cash injection that could be in SA’s future.

“We estimate the investment required to extract this gas would be of the order of $40 billion to $60 billion, of which $35 billion would be spent in SA.”

If we get it right, we could land gas onshore within two to three years.

This was recently done in Equatorial Guinea, which put in place policies that encouraged energy investment while ensuring most of the benefits remained in the country. Ayuk points to contrasting examples of two countries that both discovered oil around 2007 – Ghana and Uganda. Ghana had the right regulatory framework in place and extracted its first offshore oil in 2011. Uganda’s oil find remains buried underground because it has been unable to finalise policies that satisfy investors.

When Norway discovered oil in the North Sea in the 1960s, it put in place policies and a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) to ensure that there would be economic benefits long after the oil was gone. Key among these policies was an insistence on developing the local oil and gas sector, rather than leaving it all to outsiders. Petroleum accounted for 43% of exports in 2018, and great care is taken to ensure that exports exceed imports – which in turn provides currency stability. Compare this to Venezuela, where oil accounts for 95% of exports, a key factor behind its current political instability.

Norway has been particularly adept at using its SWF to hedge against oil price volatility and as a means of saving wealth generated from its petroleum sector for use by future generations. Another benefit of SWFs is to diversify away from cash holdings or low-yielding US Treasury bills.

Infrastructure already in place

South Africa’s only local source of natural gas was developed in the 1980s with the Mossgas facility built to beneficiate the gas. Additional natural gas is imported from Mozambique to supply the gas industry around Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

“The Brulpadda discovery could have a similar impact on Mossel Bay and the Mossgas facility as the Zohr discovery did in Egypt. At the time of the Zohr discovery, Egypt was starting to plan for a future where the domestic gas production would not be enough to keep up with local demand for gas,” says EPCM Holdings.

The Total discoveries have significant advantages over the Kudu development in Namibia or the giant fields of Mozambique and Tanzania. The SA finds would be able to tap into a pre-existing local market where the infrastructure and demand are already in place.

“This is a great moment for SA,” says Ayuk. ”We shouldn’t waste it.”

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Brilliant for SA and will bring Billions to South Africans.

…you meant, mostly to the ‘connected elite’ 😉

(But yes, I agree, very positive for the country).

yes….the readers will be surprised if they know who some of the partners is in this venture by Total.

If we get it right – Please keep the politicians out of this, we do not need another fiasco same as Escom. Excellent discovery our country needs desperately this kind of development.

@Hachmet: Mostly tongue in cheek, but you are quite right. Joo-li-aas will expect to be given it for mahala.

I really hope our politicians do something right for the economy. Dont however forget that the oil industry is about as corrupt as the arms and nuclear industry. They are very very ugly characters to deal with.

Investors and their engineers are able to find innovative ways to drill through many kilometres of rock, to sink shafts to extract minerals. They are able to drill for oil on a platform that floats out at sea. These brilliant innovations of the capitalist society can withstand earthquakes on land, and storms at sea. There is no limit to the ingenuity of the capitalist when it comes to the extraction of minerals for the benefit of everybody.

A socialist government puts an impenetrable barrier in the way of the capitalist investor. The combination of the Mining Charter, BEE requirements, labour laws, militant labour unions, the nationalisation of mineral rights, local beneficiation requirements plus the high company tax rate, act like layers upon layers of impenetrable rock formations that cover the minerals or the oil. The capitalists find it impossible to dill through these layers of socialist rent-seeking. These policies repel capital. The minerals remain underground, people are not employed, and no taxes are received.

When these impenetrable socialist formations threaten to damage or destroy the capital investment of the mining company, they simply move to alternative jurisdictions where those policies are less damaging. Stupid greed is the downfall of many impoverished African countries.

Entrepreneurs and investors act on incentives. When a socialist regime removes all the incentives, the national wealth remains buried underground, unemployment rises and children starve.


Your continual banging of the Capitalist vs Socialist drum as the ONLY panacea for the world’s economic problems and prosperity makes sense.

Until it does not!

You have distilled your ideology into a too-simplistic black vs white solution. (I’m not referencing race here! Just the starkness of the alternatives).

In your world-view, the USA is the pre-eminent example of the superiority of “Capitalism”.

The shining example on the hilltop to emulate…

Just one problem though…

There is a fly in your ointment! In fact, lots of flies! And real big “brommers” too!

Firstly, the USA is no longer a “shining example” – of anything!

It USED to be a REAL 1st world country (from WW1 to after WW2), but is now in TERMINAL decline into 3rd world status. Not there yet, but the expanding deterioration in the inner cities, and the changing demographics are already cementing this bad outcome.

Its inefficient, corrupt, money-driven, and inbred political system has become a dangerous impediment in and of itself.

So to my point… Who has done BETTER than your “pure” Capitalist nirvana?

Quite a few it seems!

Pretty much all the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden etc).

These countries are Socialist countries (as opposed to Communist)!

And of course, my favourite example, China. Which, in almost EVERY measure of Capitalist success is knocking the ball (and especially the USA’s balls) completely out of the park!

Basically, Sensei, although there are very substantive elements of truth in your arguments that cannot be denied, your theory is too one-eyed, very deeply flawed, and does NOT satisfactorily account (at all!) for the success of numerous practical examples that DIRECTLY contradict your rigid thesis.

Your turn to serve…

”There is nothing in socialism that a little age or a little money will not cure” Will Durant (1885-1981)

Capitalism against Socialism – one should prepare ”apples to apples”
I stayed and worked in Norway many moons ago – they have got a ”cradle to grave welfare state” – with the support of North-sea oil.
They have only got 5 million people that live in that massive country – one you cannot prepare ”Norwegian Socialism” with any country in Africa!

While I agree with most of your post, you are wrong is you say that Nordic countries are socialist. They are free-market capitalist countries with individual property rights. They have even privatised SOEs. They do have a strong social agenda, which I strongly support! The point is their economies are able to afford social spending because they are capitalist societies! I am a strong supporter of social projects but it must be sustainable. Social projects are only sustainable when private property rights are respected.

The difference between socialism and capitalism is simply property rights and freedom of choice. The more the infringements of property rights, the more socialist that country is. All countries are somewhere in the continuum. Interestingly, China is an undemocratic one-party communist country, which enforces state capitalism! This “communist” country has the fastest-growing economy in the world for the reason that “socialist” voters cannot determine government policy. This is the biggest problem in democratic countries like the USA and ours. Democracy is a recipe for disaster because it allows voters to write their own pay cheques to the detriment of the economy. Socialist regimes remove the decision-making powers from citizens and concentrate it in the hands of the clueless leading politicians. This is the road to slavery.

The point is – we have to move away from socialist policies and Central Planning towards a market economy and property rights. This will ensure that the state has enough income to finance important social projects.

Wrong at many levels. What is socialism? it is ownership of the means of production by the state. By this definition the Scandinavian countries are not socialist. Who better to tell you (off) than the Danish Prime Minister himself:

China is not a socialist country. Again, with reference to the ownership of means of production, China is capitalist. The hand of the free market is everywhere. Every man and his dog has a thriving business. China is hugely restrictive when it comes to personal (political freedom). It is also intrinsically corrupt by law, but the Chinese have a huge amount of economic freedom. This is what counts.

The problem of the USA stems from socialist ideas not capitalism. The fundamental idea that one can do good with another persons money. To do this one first has to take it away from the other person. The socialist state, at its heart, is therefore a philosophy of violence and coercion. The implicit use of force is against freedom. There are strong moral issues at stake. Socialist cities like LA have high taxes and every-increasing budgets but the problems like homelessness get worse with time. This is exacerbated by statist intervention like minimum wages and rent control which merely take away power and jobs from workers and hinder investment in housing. Capital and jobs exit the state. Increased budgets for the city mean less for the residents with countless bureaucrats syphoning off public funds. Nobody spends other people’s money as carefully as they do their own. Democrat socialist policies have hollowed out cities such as Detroit and Baltimore. They are mere husks of their former selves. Freedom is eliminating governments from markets and leaving the money in the hands of the people. It has another name: capitalism.

All fancy arguments not applicable to the ANC and Africa who know no logic or reason only looting and entitlement and then the begging bowl. Next ANC feeding frenzy.

Thanks to all (especially including Sensei and RTG!) for your incisive (and educational) comments!

I err in using the term “socialism” too loosely, and agree that the Scandinavian countries and the like may more accurately be defined as “welfare states” instead (whatever that’s supposed to mean!).

Whatever the pedantics, my point remains standing, even if somewhat bruised…

@Comme ci
The fact that Norway “got lucky” finding lots of oil, and that they have a small relative population, is the proper explanation for why they are so well off, completely misses the REAL driver why Norway made an astonishing success of their good luck. This success was NOT just a happy accident that just “happened”.

The fact that the population is small compared to the land is a DIRECT result of their primal attitude and culture towards their own long-term sustainability.

These are CHOICES they made.

Other groups, faced with the same circumstances, would have made disastrously different choices. Africa for example.

The supposition that the US is going downhill ONLY because the country is embracing “welfare state” principles, is disingenuous.

If the previous condition was “Capitalism”, and it has all these fantastic benefits for the population, then WHY are the citizens “ditching this good thing” in favour of something else?

The argument that Capitalism is all over the place in China, and that it’s only the greedy chasing of personal self-interest that is fueling China’s staggering growth is also disingenuous.

China has a communist government. They made a CONSCIOUS choice to EXPLICITLY encourage private ownership and INITIATIVE.

My point is that Economic success of any country is NOT due to making the simple binary “this OR “that” choice that Sensei and RTG are alluding to.

My point is that society’s that promote WISE choices for the common good reap BETTER and more SUSTAINABLE benefits, than those that think that actively promoting PERSONAL greed at the expense of the rest of the population is the way to go. And that those cast by the wayside are somehow going to fix themselves. And everything will turn out fine and dandy in the end. Not going to happen!

Societies that promote good families make better citizens and better societies.

Moreover, it is absolutely essential that a society actively self-discipline it self.

It matters LESS what the pedantry about “-ism” is, than the wisdom of the leaders!

I see my two brothers have come to my rescue. They took over where I fell short. Thank you.

Jonnox, it is a common mistake to confuse welfare projects and social grants with socialism. Capitalists and socialists want the same support for the less fortunate among us. These groups differ in principle on how to achieve this.

Capitalists are incentivised to add value to society and to improve the lives of the poor through private ownership of the means of production, to create employment opportunities and higher wages, while socialists want to own the means of production where the state employs people. The free-market system incentivises individuals to add value to society because their own wealth depends on it. The rewards for entrepreneurs and consumers are aligned under capitalism. Capitalists cannot exploit consumers or workers because everyone has the freedom of choice among an abundance of alternatives products and job opportunities.

The alternatives disappear under socialism because when the state owns the means of production, they also have a monopoly on products and jobs. The lack of a competitive force of private property leads to inefficiencies and high cost-structures that punishes the poor people the most. Socialism leads to increasing levels of slavery. Capitalists make many donations and contributions to charitable projects because it is in their interest to do so. They are incentivised to contribute to a stable society. Show me one socialist who donates his own money to the poor? The socialist uses his power to make laws, to extort charitable contributions from others, never from himself. This is false philanthropy.

The theory of socialism does not account for the fact that humans act according to incentives. When you remove the incentives, the rational human will revert to parasitism and become a drag on the system. This is why all socialist nations implode. The system incentivises and rewards bankruptcy of the state and leads to famine across the nation. How does this help the poor?


While we wait for “The Censor” to approve my reply (a feature of a Tolitarian system amongst Capitalists?), I could not help but also fire off a comment on your latest response:

“Capitalists cannot exploit consumers or workers because everyone has the freedom of choice among an abundance of alternatives products and job opportunities.”

Ahem, Sensei…!

You astound me with this breathless naivete about ability of greedy minds to exploit any and EVERY gap they find – especially those unfortunate souls who actually have NO choices (it’s Hobson’s Choice) except to agree to the rapacious demands of exploiters who have them over a barrel, and use that circumstance to take advantage of their fellow humans.

Their are some wonderful humans like Lord Cadbury who lived up to your expectations (and mine).

And then there are just pigs (living up to your “personal Capitalist incentives” of course!) whose abuse of their opportunities led DIRECTLY to the birth of Trade Unions (which was not all good in all its consequences), but which movements would NEVER have arisen in the first place if it were not for the odious excesses of Capitalism that your views conveniently air brush out of the picture.

I fully agree Capitalism has been (and is) of profound benefit to society.

I strongly disagree that it can safely be left unchecked, to its own devices.

The best ideas are ideas are invariably a HYBRID of several CONFLICTING ideas. It’s NOT a BINARY choice. Nor should it ever be.

That’s my point!

Sound arguments being made by all. Am going to lean towards backing Sensei / RichardTG / Comme ci.

Enough has been explained about the “invisible hand” of the Capitalist system….in fact the freedom / promotion of “personal greed” is what allows for society as a whole to benefit. It simply brings the best out of people in society. Communism or central planning, although has it limited benefits (provided the leadership is chosen well), but goes with lots of economic wastage (you either have too little of a commodity, or supplied too late). The system of supply & demand with market-related pricing has proven itself for more than a century.

Yes, certain Scandinavian countries (and the Netherlands as well) have a strong socialist society, with fairly high income tax while the state looks after society, yet allowing sufficient freedom & respect of property rights for capitalism to thrive.

The USA, seen as the prime example of the most aggressive capitalist country, is also not what it seems (how many private corporations were saved from collapse by state loans during the 2008/9 sub-prime crisis & the Covid lockdown. Here the govt stepped it to save the private sector, but some argue it allows companies to survive that should’ve gone bankrupt & preferably to make way for other private corporations making better decisions). As if private corporations take extreme risk, knowing the govt could bail it out.

The answer lies as a hybrid system between Capitalism (more stronger) & Socialism (lesser influence)…but not true Communism. And then you have state socialism, like China, a concept many of us grapple with how it could be working. Remember people’s different CULTURE also plays a part. The same ‘economic system’ will have different outcomes with different cultures/work ethics.

Am bringing in a different factor that determines the success of a country: THE LEVEL OF EDUCATION OF THE AVERAGE CITIZEN. (yes, I accept it’s NOT the panacea it’s all about, but a very strong factor)

Countries like Norway, Denmark, etc (even when they have a strong social reliance from the state) CHOOSE THEIR LEADERS WELL…or better said “Educated citizens will allow educated, and ethical leaders to rule them”.

Good leadership is chosen, and in such a way that when an Iceland Prime Minister, honorably steps down (without being forced) by the mere mention of a Panama Papers scandal. Where in the world would an African president do that? He is Chief over his tribe & cannot be judged.

Lesser Socialism and More Capitalism….irrespective…society benefits in the type of LEADERSHIP they ALLOW themselves to be ruled.

If the whole of SA’s citizens were educated rocket scientists, all races, the “spectre” of a Showerhead or a Red Beret would not be allowed to exist.
Citizens collectively suffer as a result of the uneducated, thieving idiots we allowed as our leaders. Maduro. Zupta. Castro. Gaddafi.


Nobody said that capitalism was to be left unchecked. One example would be economic externalities where the cost of production is not borne by the producer but the society, for example a factory dumping polluted water in the river. In modern capitalist societies there are regulations to ensure that this case of where the free market breaks down is addressed. The worst environmental disasters are in the old USSR (Chernobyl, Norilsk and Karabash, for example)

I never said that the USA was going down entirely because it was embracing socialist principles. These have merely exacerbated the decline. Cheap labour in the far east coexisted with the USA for decades. What caused USA labour and capital to uncouple? Simply the destabilisation of the interest rate structure and specifically destruction of capital caused by this (1980 to 2000). The US Federal Reserve and central banking in other words. Central banking with debt based money is a tenet of socialism.

The reason people choose socialism over capitalism is that it is both seductive and destructive, but not simultaneously. For the same reason a mouse gets its back broken in a snap trap: it does not know why the cheese is free. It is for the same reason people buy Lotto tickets: the lucky ones get to consume the produce of others without having to produce wealth themselves. The problem is when everyone jumps on the wagon, it grinds to a halt.

You can call China a “communist” government but that is in name only. My son lived in China for a while and worked there for $10 per day for a while as an intern for a Swiss owner. He even started his own business while over there. He gave me some very important insights as to why economic freedom is far more important than political freedom when it comes to raising one’s standard of living. Chinese are affluent simply because they have a lot of disposable income. They are not free. China is corrupt. A ranking military officer gets to push to the front of a queue.

Trade unions are not bad. They are a sign of a free society. The problems arise when the law allows trade unions to run amok. For example, not being allowed to fire striking workers and hire others.

Sensai, a nice discussion and debate following your comment.
Just to observe that there are many different understandings of socialism, as there are many of communism and capitalism.
While I once understood fully what fascism meant, on researching this at post-doc level, I subsequently found out that I understood about nothing.

So maybe each to their own life experience.

Thank goodness for free enterprise and Total, who should be congratulated with their discovery.Lets hope that beaurocracy and the ANC state do not add upfront royalties to corrupt officials that could hamper the downstream value benefits to consumers.
Low energy prices can be a great economic stimulus to turn the economy around.You only get one chance ,so lets hope they don’t create another SAA or Eskom.

Government is very quiet on this one.

This one could turn the economy around in a very big way.

Probably bigger than when Sasol started.

The reality is thst Lethuli house will block all progress unless they are paid ….

Exciting times. Good news week or two. My ranking:

1. Vaccine!! and big spike in share prices
2. Ace Arrest
3. Drop in Fuel prices
4. Total’s discoveries – Big moment for SA!!!
5. Stormers won at last
6. Jake White developing some serious talent in Pretoria

Did I miss something?

7. Kulula starts flying again around 25Nov. We have a new airline – Lift – that starts flying first week of December. Even SAA are planning to resume certain international flights from December if all goes well.

…you need to move (point 5) a Stormers win, to the TOP of your priority list please 😉

Add point 8: all Covid masks get collected & goes to a single bonfire on 31 Dec.

Point 9: Law & Order is restored

Point 10: Julius Malema arrested by SARS for outstanding tax debt, and the rest of clan in jail for VBS Bank robbery.

How do we know that is within South Africa’s Economic Exclusion Zone?

Isn’t this part of the ocean China’s territory? (… there’s more Chinese fishing vessels, legally or illegally, in SA’s waters with our coast guard/fisheries protection nowhere to be seen…hence I assume it’s Chinese waters?)

Probably will make little difference, as the day arrives when China calls up its SA debt onto our government, TOTAL will end up paying Beijing directly, on behalf of out govt.

Shut down and liquidation of SAA.
Shut down or privatisation of SAPO.

Hopefully the ANC regime won’t follow Uganda’s example where everything remains buried. The pattern seems to be the expectation that the petroleum companies (of other mining companies) to give away 30%+ of their investment upfront (to politically connected cadres), want royalties and taxes and social upliftment which means the investors get no return for the capital invested. That way the find will remain buried until it no longer has any value because the world has moved on to solar and wind power.

The thing is … it is SO difficult to get of a drug once you are addicted to it and our Government’s addiction is BEE. So the big warning in this article must not be overlooked: “Ayuk says government needs to move fast to reap the benefits of these finds. “It will have to relook at its BEE codes, its labour laws and will have to offer some kind of incentives for tax and skills training.”

This is potentially an incredible opportunity of good fortune for South Africa and also other countries in the region. It could be on an economic development par with the historic discovery of gold and other precious metals.

But note a couple of risk factors:

1. As mentioned, the political greed and interference factor of the ANC is a very serious high risk factor. The last quarter century shows that SA is good at f#cking up this sort of thing.

2. There is a global glut of natural gas, given production from Russia, since increased production in middle east countries like Qatar and since the advent of underground extraction by fracking, notably in USA. This country cannot sell or even store its massive production.
This means firstly that buyers can choose to get the product from anywhere else in the world, at cheapest price; and secondly that implies that the financial benefits may much smaller than promised and also may be short lived.

Best case scenario France/total lets the politicians have it worst case we get an terrorist problem. We are tucked either way

I would not hold my breath on this. Total and their partners will sit on this for some time to extract a workable commitment from the communists in Lootuli House. If you think about the amount of risk capital they will need to invest, they will expect significant returns.
This is completely anathema to most rent seeking South Africans who insist they own the mineral wealth. In the mean time, the mineral wealth will remain worthless.
The ANC government has not shown the capacity to manage and encourage investment in South Africa’s world class mineral endowment, and now we expect a recent gas discovery in an extremely inhospitable environment to change this trajectory?
Maybe one day…kesho.

I see Equatorial Guinea is quoted as an example of how oil / gas was used for sovereign wealth generation. That is not the case, as its people are amongst the poorest in the world and its leaders amongst the richest. The same probably wont happen here but the 10% free carry to Main Street is a national disgrace. Why don’t they give that free carry to the many school feeding and poverty alleviation schemes across the country? Nope, its goes to the disgusting fat cats

1. MossGas = PetroSA(New Name)
2. PetroSA has Gas-to-Liquid Technology…. This condensate is only the small amount that will be used…

The government wants to convert PetroSA into a diesel production plant from Light liquid hydrocarbons, all the while, they want to develop a pipeline to Kouga, where they will be Storing the LNG Gas at their plant in the Eastern Cape. (In summary, due to politics, PetroSA is getting a raw deal within State discussions)

The Good news however, there are discussions to the point of preparing Tendering for Generation in Mossel Bay. Starting with >50MW power supply, and then scaling up from there.

Mossel Bay overall, is expanding faster than one would think.

End of comments.





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