Sep 11, 2012
Shale licensing to proceed, but exploratory fracking prohibited for nowBack
Engineering|Africa|Chesapeake|DST|Eskom|Exploration|Flow|Karoo Action Group|Mineral Resources|Mining|PROJECT|Resources|Shell|Statoil|Systems|Water|Africa|South Africa|Square Kilometre Array|Coordination Systems|Energy|Energy Supply Considerations|Flow|Potential Shale-gas Investors|Shale Gas Mining|Shale-gas Licence Applications|Systems|Unconventional Gas|Environmental|Drilling|Jonathan Deal|Susan Shabangu|Water|Operations|South Africa|Fracturing
© Reuse this
Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu clarified normal exploration to include “drilling”, as well as geophysical and geochemical mapping. But exploratory fracking would not be allowed during the 6 to 12 months it would take to formulate “appropriate regulations, controls and coordination systems”.
Both drilling and fracking are integral to the shale-gas exploration process, with the drilling used to confirm the existence of the shale formations and fracking to prove whether the gas will indeed flow from the shale.
No timeframes were offered for the issuance of licences, nor for the start of a broad-based consultation process that had been stipulated by Cabinet when it gave the now contextualised “conditional” approval to fracking at its meeting of September 4.
A monitoring committee would be established to oversee the augmentation of the mining regulations, as well as to supervise possible fracking operations, Shabangu said, quoting from Cabinet-endorsed recommendations arising from a task team probe of the potential and appropriateness of allowing fracking in South Africa. This committee had not yet been appointed.
The task team had comprised representatives from the departments of Mineral Resources, Environmental and Water Affairs, Energy and Science and Technology (DST), as well as from Eskom, the Council for Geoscience, the Water Research Commission and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). It also included academics from the universities of the Free State and Western Cape.
The report also called for collaboration between the DMR and the DST to ensure “co-existence” between the SKA radio astronomy research and any shale gas mining, as well as for further geohydrology investigation.
Shabangu also insisted that a far-reaching consultation process would be pursued on the basis of Cabinet’s cautious endorsement of fracking and the inclusion of unconventional gas into South Africa’s future energy supply considerations.
A number of questions were posed at the briefing, including by the Treasure the Karoo Action Group’s Jonathan Deal, about the fact that the consultation and regulatory strengthening processes had been sequenced in parallel with the licensing process and possible limited exploration.
But Shabangu insisted that government had no previous mandate, or basis, for consultation, which the task team report now provided. Government would consider amending its processes should well-founded suggestions and objections be raised during consultations with affected parties and stakeholders.
The Minister stressed the licensing would proceed in line with the administrative guidelines of South Africa’s Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, which made it incumbent upon the DMR to consider the merits of five applications received to date. Failure to do so could result in court challenges by the applicants.
Shabangu refused to confirm the names of the applicants, stating that the department would need to reconfirm whether all the applicants remained interested. It is known, though, that Shell South Africa has made application to the department, while names such as Anglo American, Bundu, Falcon Energy, Chesapeake and Statoil have also been linked to the process. Sasol also applied in a joint venture with Statoil and Chesapeake, but withdrew following a desktop evaluation of the project's technical feasibility.
Shell South Africa upstream GM Jan Eggink told Engineering News Online that the prohibition of exploratory fracking during the period when the monitoring committee and new regulations were being established and finalised was not a worry for Shell.
The group still needed to secure an exploration licence and complete an environmental-impact assessment (EIA) for the exploration wells, which could take up to two years to finalise. Shell is yet to go out to tender for an independent consultant to conduct the EIA.
“What the Minister has proposed, therefore, makes sense. She wants to set up a monitoring committee and before that monitoring committee is installed you wouldn’t like hydraulic fracturing to start, because it is there to oversee that process,” Eggink added.
But in the longer run, an exploration permit that disallowed fracking activities would “not be a very valuable licence to hold”.
The full task team report, entitled ‘Investigation of Hydraulic Fracturing in the Karoo Basin of South Africa’, would be made available once it had been edited. But the executive summary, which was released, argued that conditional fracking was considered more appropriate than an outright ban or unconditional sanction.
The report highlighted the risks posed to water resources and astronomy research, but said that the socioeconomic and energy benefits could be material.
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Energy News
Recent Research Reports
Steel 2015: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2015 report provides an overview of the key developments in the global steel industry and particularly of South Africa’s steel sector over the past year, including details of production and consumption, as well as the country's primary carbon...
Projects in Progress 2015 - First Edition (PDF Report)
In fact, this edition of Creamer Media’s Projects in Progress 2015 supplement tracks developments taking place under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which has had four bidding rounds. It appears to remain a shining light on the...
Electricity 2015: A review of South Africa's electricity sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Electricity 2015 report provides an overview of State-owned power utility Eskom and independent power producers, as well as electricity planning, transmission, distribution and the theft thereof, besides other issues.
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
This Week's Magazine
Today’s organisations execute projects within increasingly complex environments – particularly in the engineering sector. The ability to successfully execute these projects is what drives the realisation of successful projects and, ultimately, the achievement of...
South Africa’s distribution grid is a twentieth-century relic, which must be changed to serve the country’s modern electricity needs, says South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) Smart Grid Programme manager Dr Minnesh Bipath. “What we are...
There is a disparity in government funding provided to integrated transport networks – bus rapid transit (BRT) networks ¬¬– and that given to conventional bus services, says Putco executive director Thys Heyns. “We have neglected and strangled conventional bus...
The Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco) is building 502 rental housing units, valued at R200-million, in Dobsonville, Soweto, which are scheduled for completion in June 2016.
Automotive component manufacturer and distributor Metair is centralising its research and development (R&D) work in Turkey, in an attempt to bolster the company’s ability to produce affordable start/stop batteries. The new R&D centre is part of an expansion plan in...