The South African Cabinet last week lifted a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the country that was imposed in February of last year.
The southern Africa's Karoo Basin has a estimated technically recoverable gas reserve potential of 485 Tcf, according to the US Energy Information Administration, but it is a water-scarce region and hydraulic fracturing is a water-intensive operation.
Licenses for the exploration of shale gas will be issued under certain circumstances, following the Cabinet’s endorsement last week of a recommendation made by the Department of Mineral Resources.
Fracturing still cannot be carried out at this time although exploration will involve some drilling. The recommendations from the department are:
- Allow normal exploration activities, such as geological field mapping, and other data gathering activities, such as hydrological studies, to proceed under the existing regulatory framework.
- Create a monitoring committee to write the regulations and supervise operations.
- Augment the current regulatory framework, which is expected to take 6 to 12 months.
- The government’s science and technology and mineral resources departments will work toward “coexistence” between the proposed shale gas development in South Africa’s Karoo region and the existing astronomy research projects in the area.
- Authorize hydraulic fracturing under supervision of the monitoring committee; the process will be halted in the event of unacceptable outcomes.
- Conduct ongoing research on the development of the Karoo shale gas.