SA probes shale gas impacts, opportunities

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pretoria – Government has commissioned an investigation into the possible impacts and potential mitigation opportunities of shale gas if it is found in the country.

“If indeed viable deposits are found in South Africa, shale gas, as a relatively lower carbon energy source, presents significant transformative potential for the South African economy,” Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said on Tuesday in Pretoria.

Minister Pandor said government had commissioned the Strategic Environmental Assessment of Shale Gas Development.

“Not only could the exploitation of deposits of lower carbon shale gas - if found, result in the provision of affordable and safe energy: it is also a potential source of job creation, foreign exchange and investment - and overall contribute towards South Africa’s energy security,” she said.

Minister Pandor was speaking at a media briefing as representative of the Ministerial Task Team, which comprises of the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Department of Mineral Resources, the Department of Energy as well as the Department of Water and Sanitation.

Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa also attended the briefing which launched the commission of the Strategic Environmental Assessment.

“South Africa, like most countries around the globe, is mindful of the need to seek alternative energy sources like shale gas,” she said.

Minister Pandor said the Strategic Environmental Assessment for shale gas development will be conducted as a science-based assessment to improve the understanding of the risks and opportunities for the shale gas development.

“We believe that this will assist government to create a framework and guiding principles to inform responsible decision making.

“The Strategic Environmental Assessment will consider both exploration and production related activities and impacts of shale gas development, including the process of hydraulic fracturing, and will include an assessment of all material social, economic and biophysical risks and opportunities presented,” she said.

The study area will include regions of the Karoo Basin which currently have exploration rights, applications are pending in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Western Provinces.

The Strategic Environmental Assessment for shale gas development will run over a period of 24 months.

A project team comprising of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Council for Geosciences (CGS) will undertake the Strategic Environmental Assessment.

The project team will be led by Professor Bob Scholes of the University of Witwatersrand for Systems Ecologist, who is also a research associate of the CSIR.

“The three affected provinces, namely the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape Provinces are part of the national project executive committee.

“The governance structure also includes a process custodian group compromising of 15 representatives from government, research institutions, industry experts and non-government organisations,” Minister Pandor said.

She said the people of South Africa will most benefit if it is found that viable deposits exist of lower carbon shale gas, enabling exploitation, extraction and development. –