News / Africa

    Oil Rush in Africa's Parks Drives Hunt for Eco-friendly Methods

    FILE - Workers of Ivory Coast Kuyo pipeline company assemble pipelines in Tiebissou, near Abidjan, the economical capital of Ivory Coast.
    FILE - Workers of Ivory Coast Kuyo pipeline company assemble pipelines in Tiebissou, near Abidjan, the economical capital of Ivory Coast.
    Reuters
    East Africa's oil rush is spreading into parks and protected areas, prompting companies to develop new ways to explore for hydrocarbons without disturbing wildlife and natural treasures such as rare fossils.
     
    From Uganda, where France's Total is trying new and less intrusive methods of seismic testing in a national park, to Madagascar, where operations are under way next to a UNESCO site, the industry is working in locations where damage would trigger public outcries.
     
    “We can't take anything for granted. We are abutting next to a UNESCO National Park,” said Stewart Ahmed, chief executive officer of Madagascar Oil, which plans the first commercial crude oil production in the impoverished Indian Ocean island state.
     
    “We are going to be under scrutiny and our pipelines, for example, will have to skirt around those kinds of areas,” he said on the sidelines of an Africa oil conference organized by Global Pacific & Partners.
     
    When an area is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO -the cultural and scientific arm of the United Nations - it  immediately comes under close observation by conservationists.
     
    Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, next to Madagascar Oil's  operations in a rugged and remote region of the country's west, is known for towering limestone pinnacles and is home to rare wildlife such as the red-fronted brown lemurs.
     
    “World Heritage Sites are of particular concern. Many companies are committed to not developing in World Heritage Sites and conservation groups are opposed to developments in such areas,” said Ray Victurine of the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society.
     
    “So there is a lot of scrutiny with regard to developments there,” he said.
     
    Seismic and human evolution
     
    In Uganda, where Total is exploring in Murchison Falls National Park, home to elephants, lions and a rare giraffe sub-species, the company is using seismic technology which the industry says is less disruptive than traditional methods for pinpointing oil reserves.
     
    Typically, seismic tests involve clearing bush in a straight line and blasting explosives. Echo patterns are then analyzed to detect oil pockets beneath the surface.
     
    Total has said that in Murchison it was using “one of the latest cableless technologies available in the industry”.
     
    Because cables will not be used to record the seismic signals, the technology, provided by Texas-based FairfieldNodal, does not require the removal of vegetation along the grid line.
     
    In northern Kenya, Africa-focused producer Tullow Oil is making seismic adjustments as it works in a region renowned for hominid fossils that shed light on humanity's evolutionary past.
     
    Blasting the “missing link” by mistake would not sit well in scientific circles.
     
    “We have paleontologists working on our teams in Kenya,” said Paul McDade, Tullow's chief operating officer.
     
    Because of advances in technology, seismic lines no longer  have to be perfectly straight as computing can compensate for any bends or detours.
     
    “You used to just shoot a straight seismic line. What we do now is send a party out ahead and if they find anything of interest we cordon it off and run the seismic line around it and then carry on,” McDade told Reuters.
     
    Seismic technology is becoming less intrusive in other ways as well.
     
    Calgary-based Polaris Seismic International has developed seismic equipment employing an “accelerated drop” system, eliminating the need for blasting. It has been used in villages and wildlife areas in Tanzania.
     
    Its system, the Explorer 860, thumps the earth with a hydraulically driven hammer. The energy goes straight down so wildlife and people nearby are not disturbed. Geological data is collected by geophones set up on the surface 6 kms (3-1/2 miles) on either side.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora