Petroleum Africa: Shale Gets Greenlight in South Africa

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The South African government has given approval for shale gas development in its Karoo basin. The news was revealed by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane during a community engagement on shale gas development in Richmond, in the Northern Cape.

“Based on the balance of available scientific evidence, government took a decision to proceed with the development of shale gas in the Karoo formation of South Africa,” he said in a speech.

He said the regulatory framework would ensure that shale gas was “orderly and safely developed” through hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.

“The finalization of Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) amendments will also help to expedite the development of shale gas,” Zwane said.

Successful shale exploration will help South Africa add extra gas resources to its energy mix. While that is a positive, not everyone is behind shale exploration in the Karoo basin mainly due to the fracking technology used to access those resources.

Wim Jonker Klunne, advisory board member for Energy Revolution Africa and African Utility Week and Programme Director of Energy and Environment Partnership Southern and East Africa commenting on the South African government’s greenlight on shale said “Although gas might be a viable option for the energy mix of South Africa, I do see too many issues around shale gas from the Karoo to justify its exploration. The impact on local livelihoods and available water will not justify the exploration of shale gas, particular as many other (renewable) options are available.

“As such, gas based generation can be used to balance supply and demand for electricity in a flexible way, much better than coal and certainly better than nuclear. However not at the cost of a fragile environment as the Karoo. Importing gas from for example Mozambique might be a much better option.”