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Zuma hints at tapping into Karoo shale gas

Feb 13 2015 07:47
Donwald Pressly

Cape Town - South Africa is looking to source gas from neighbouring countries as part of its energy mix, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.

Noting that South Africa would be looking to various forms of energy, including hydro power, gas, renewable fuel and nuclear power to face up to the current energy challenge, he said: "We have discovered shale gas deposits in our own Karoo region."

In an indication that the government is pondering making gas a strategic resource, he said Operation Phakisa - which focuses on the ocean economy - promised to unveil "more oil and gas resources, which will be a game changer for our country and region".

Significant gas resources have been discovered by Mozambique and Tanzania.

Zuma said in his speech - which started an hour late after disruptions by the Economic Freedom Fighers and a walkout by the official opposition Democratic Alliance - that Eskom would be directed "to switch from diesel to gas as a source of energy for the utility's generators".

He also urged households to switch from electricity to gas for cooking, heating "and other uses".

READ: Zuma vows clampdown on jobs agencies, temporary work

In December former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who is now local government minister, said his department was poised to assist municipalities with meeting the necessary infrastructure requirements "and related services" to hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in the Karoo.

He was asked by DA MP Bennet Bhanga whether he had issued an instruction to municipalities - in areas identified as having potential for shale gas production in the Karoo - to propose measures to mitigate mining risks.

Gordhan said, while no municipalities had been issued with an instruction at this stage, the department of mineral resources had issued the technical regulations for petroleum exploration and exploitation in 2013 in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act.
 
"The purpose of the draft regulations is to augment gaps identified in the current regulatory framework governing exploration and exploitation of petroleum resources, particularly in relation to hydraulic fracturing and prescribe good international petroleum industry practices and standards that will enhance safe exploration and production of petroleum,” said Gordhan.

Gordhan said any exploration would therefore be guided by the licence conditions, regulations “and any other relevant legislation”.

The minister explained that the role of his department “will be, where necessary, to support municipalities to ensure that the necessary infrastructure requirements and related services are reflected in the integrated development plans”.

READ: Zuma's 9-point plan to boost economy

An integrated development plan is a super plan for an area that gives an overall framework for development.
 
One of the big companies which is seeking to explore for shale gas in the Karoo, Royal Dutch Shell, recently expressed concern  that it had taken South Africa six years to grant licences for exploration after taking bids.

The mineral resources department is, however, expected to award exploration licences for shale gas this year, which means that the first drilling for shale gas could start in 2017.

ALSO READ: Zuma: Eskom govt's top priority

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