CAPE TOWN, May 28 – Regulations overseeing the exploration of shale gas in South Africa’s vast Karoo region are due to be published in the next two weeks, the Department of Mineral Resources says.
The department, which has briefed Parliament’s oversight committee on the status of the regulations, says the exploration of shale gas is seen as one of the “game changers” in the country’s energy generation sector.
It told the committee that it had received five applications for exploration licences — three are from Angola-Dutch energy giant Shell and one each from local firm Ubuntu Gas and dublin-headquartered Falcon Oil & Gas Limited.
Licences for exploration are expected to be issued by the end of the year. The exploration phase is expected to last between three and seven years.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is only due to be conducted after the first year of exploration and the Department of Mineral Resources has admitted that it has no idea as to the volumes of shale gas which may be extracted.
The volumes could range anywhere from 36 trillion cubic feet up to 485 trillion. The lowest potential volumes could deliver 30 times the electricity generated at the Mossgas Plant in Mossel Bay in Western Cape Province.
However, there are huge concerns around environmental degradation and water contamination as a result of fracking.
Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant said: “I take the view that we can never and we should not be reckless about the environment, even water for that matter. Therefore, regulations in South Africa insist that land owners know what is being pumped into their land.”
Environmental concerns around fracking has slowed down adoption of the controversial practice in Europe.
France banned fracking in 2011 and revoked exploration licences held by American energy company Schuepbach.
Several other countries in Europe have banned fracking, among them Bulgaria and Northern Ireland.