The Government planned to issue licences permitting exploration of shale gas reserves in the first quarter of next year, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said yesterday.
“Now we have a 30-day period where we are expecting to get public comments from the various parties; by early next year, it will be done,” she said.
The government published proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing last week, a year after lifting a ban on the drilling process known as fracking, as it seeks to tap as much as 485 trillion cubic feet of resources in the Karoo.
Opponents of the practice, which blasts water, chemicals and sand into rock to release natural gas, say it risks contaminating ground water.
Royal Dutch Shell and other explorers have applied for permits to explore the Karoo.
The government estimates shale gas may generate R1 trillion of sales within three decades, helping to bring the country closer to meeting its own energy demand. South Africa currently imports 70 percent of its crude oil needs.
The plans to exploit shale gas reserves were “indefensible” and would lead to a legal battle, Treasure the Karoo Action Group chief executive Jonathan Deal said last week.
The draft rules require drillers to meet American Petroleum Institute standards governing the type of equipment used and the disclosure of chemicals. The move to pursue exploration follows a shale gas boom in the US, while diverging from policy in France, the Netherlands and Bulgaria, where fracking has been restricted or banned in response to public protests. – Bloomberg