Cape Town - Sasol will join an American and a Norwegian oil company in exploring for a certain type of natural gas in the Central Karoo.
The multimillion-dollar exploration project was announced on Wednesday by Robin Martin Kass, state secretary for the Norwegian petroleum and energy ministry, at an oil and gas producers' seminar.
A Norwegian delegation is attending the seminar.
This is the first time that Sasol has applied for onshore exploration rights, and also the first time that the company has undertaken an exploration project in the Karoo, said Liesl Marriott, manager of non-conventional resources at Sasol Petroleum International (SPI).
The parties declined to divulge where in the Karoo they planned to search for the gas.
An application for joint exploration rights was submitted to the Petroleum Agency by the three partners - SPI, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sasol responsible for resource development, the Norwegian company Statoil, which operates in 40 countries, and the American Chesapeake Energy Corporation, one of the top 500 companies in the United States.
Alan Levison, SPI's manager for new enterprises, said the search would be for a commercially workable source of natural gas in the Karoo Basin.
He explained that the type of gas being sought occurs in shale, a type of sedimentary rock formed from clay.
Over the past decade shale gas has become an increasingly important resource in the US and it has stirred up interest in looking for similar sources in Canada, Europe and now in South Africa.
Levison said that Chesapeake is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the US with particular expertise in exploring for shale gas.
According to him, Statoil and Chesapeake believe the Karoo has shale gas potential.
Levison explained that the Karoo region is largely unproved. New technology has made it possible to explore for natural gas there.
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