UPDATE 2-Total stops S.Africa offshore drilling after mechanical failure

Tue Nov 4, 2014 6:41am EST
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* S.Africa wants 30 wells drilled in next 10 years

* Total woes a setback to S.Africa exploration drive

* S.Africa oil discovery would be seen as "game changer" (Adds no resumption before 2016)

By Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN, Nov 4 (Reuters) - French energy major Total has halted oil exploration off the southern coast of Africa due to mechanical problems with a rig, meaning it will not be able to resume searching in the area before 2016, a company official said on Tuesday.

The news is a huge setback to South Africa's plans to have 30 exploration wells drilled in the next 10 years as the continent's most advanced economy strives to reduce its heavy reliance on imported oil.

"Offshore repair was not possible," Guy Maurice, the company's senior vice-president for exploration and production in Africa, told delegates at an Africa oil and gas conference organised by Global Pacific & Partners.

He later told Reuters that it would not be possible to resume drilling before 2016.

Total is the operator of Block 11B/12B, where it holds a 50 percent stake in the field with equal partner CNR International, a subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.   Continued...