Government warms to shale gas exploration

The Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG), the civil society organisation leading the fight against plans to explore for shale gas in the Karoo, has not taken kindly to the National Planning Commission’s (NPC) support for hydraulic fracturing.

Recent events suggest that the government is slowly warming up to the idea of using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to explore for shale gas reserves and the possibility of mining this resource to help meet South Africa’s rapidly increasing energy demand.

According to reports, Kuben Naidoo, head of minister in the presidency Trevor Manuel’s office, said in parliament that the NPC (led by Manuel) saw natural gas providing a rising share of the national energy mix because it would be cheaper than nuclear options. He added, however, that steps had to be taken to ensure that environmental safeguards were put in place.

The NPC’s support for shale gas exploration is also clearly outlined in the National Development Plan. But, according to TKAG, the NPC is wrong to consider mining for shale gas in the Karoo when there are more viable, known gas deposits to be exploited, which will be far less threatening to the environment.

In a statement, TKAG chairperson Jonathan Deal refers to deposits such as the large gas resource held by Forest Exploration International off South Africa’s west coast which, according to Deal, could keep Western Cape in gas for decades. The Department of Mineral Resources is expected to soon present a report by an inter-ministerial task team which probes the potential of shale gas to cabinet. Meanwhile, a moratorium on all fracking activities will remain in place in South Africa.