PRETORIA: South Africa’s shale gas has the potential to boost business development within communities, establish black industrialists, create employment and develop specialised skills and the youth, says Minister for Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane.
“Currently South Africa is a net importer of energy sources such as crude oil, refined petroleum products and natural gas. It is estimated that the Karoo shale gas resources would mean South Africa has the fifth largest reserves, estimated at 485 trillion cubic feet (tcf).
“We, however, take a conservative view of a 30 tcf economically recoverable resource, which is equivalent to 30 times the size of the Mossgas (Mossel Bay gas field) plants.” For many years, South Africa has been reliant largely on a single source of energy.
“We have taken a decision to diversify our energy basket in our pursuit to provide not only cost-competitive energy security, but also significantly reduce the carbon footprint and drive our industrialisation and beneficiation programme to grow the economy inclusively in order to create a critical mass of employment, amongst others.”
Speaking during a community gathering in Cradock, in Eastern Cape Province, yesterday, he said: “It is my firm belief that the excitement we have about the discovery of this resource (shale gas) needs to be shared and also enjoyed by communities.
“In this regard my department has devised a promotional programme through which the public and especially communities that are close to the proposed development are educated and informed about these developments.
“This will ensure that communities are kept up to date about the exploration method and benefits that can be realised from the exploitation of shale gas and informed about the mechanisms and instruments that seek to augment existing laws for the protection of water resources and for the protection of the environment.”
Upon discovery of the shale gas prospect a few years ago, the government started processing applications for development of the resources. However, a moratorium was placed on processing applications and any further receipt of applications when concerns were raised by stakeholders.
A team of experts was assembled made up of government and other experts to undertake a socio-economic and environment assessment of shale gas development. The study was completed and published for all to have access to its findings. It made specific recommendations, which were adopted by Cabinet and implemented.
Key among these recommendations was the establishment of an inter-departmental task team to develop appropriate regulations to mitigate the risk of negative environmental impact, including contamination of water.
“The government, based on the balance of available scientific evidence, took a decision to proceed with the development of shale gas in the Karoo formation of South Africa,” he said. The Karoo is a semi-desert inland region covering about half a million square kilometres in the southern part South Africa.