Karoo shale gas exploration decision imminent
Publish date: 11 July 2017
Issue Number: 515
Diary: Legalbrief Environmental
The Petroleum Agency SA (Pasa) has reviewed feedback from public consultations and scientific reports on shale gas and is on the verge of making recommendations on granting exploration licences, David van der Spuy, the agency’s manager for resource evaluation, said last week. A BusinessLIVE report notes that exploration for shale gas in the Karoo, which would involve hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is contentious because concerns about environmental damage are being weighed against the potential economic benefits. Van der Spuy told a South African Oil and Gas Alliance event last week that Pasa had updated the estimate of SA’s potential shale gas resource to 5.69trn cubic metres. The moratorium on granting new shale gas exploration permits remained in place and the first three permits granted to previous applicants Shell, Falcon and Bundu did not permit hydraulic fracking, he said. Those permits only allowed seismic and exploratory drilling.
Fracking in the Karoo, despite its potential spin-offs, must be approached with caution to avoid harm to SA’s environment and the country’s food security position, Agri South Africa (AgriSA) has said. According to a report in The Mercury, Johannes Möller, president of AgriSA, said at a media briefing in Pretoria: ‘We need more research before we can support it. We need to be sure we maintain and eventually rehabilitate the agricultural potential of that land that will be used in the mining (for shale gas). That is all we are saying. If needs be, we will challenge the MPRDA (Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act) in court.’ He said it was not true that opposition to the fracking project were anti-economic development in South Africa’s rural regions. ‘We are not against economic development, specifically in the rural regions; we are in favour of it. But you have to do it in a responsible way.’ Möller said AgriSA cannot support the government’s move towards fracking, given the uncertainties to water supply and contamination issues associated with shale gas development, and the use of unconventional exploration and production techniques in the hydraulic fracturing. In April, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane announced that the government had given the go-ahead for shale gas development in the Karoo region.