Shale gas is opportunity for SA to produce own fuel – Minister

The potential of shale gas exploration and exploitation provides an opportunity for South Africa to begin exploring the production of its own fuel,  according to Mineral Resources Minister, Susan Shabangu.

Announcing on Thursday 10 October, that Cabinet had approved the gazetting of technical regulations on petroleum exploration and exploitationm the Minister also said the potential of shale gas marks the beginning of the reindustrialisation of the economy.

“The proposed regulations prescribe good international petroleum industry practices and standards, which enhance safe exploration and production of all petroleum – including, but not limited to, shale gas, and will further ensure that petroleum exploration is conducted in a socially and environmentally balanced manner,” said the minister at a briefing in Pretoria on Thursday.

She said government was satisfied that the technical regulations had sufficiently addressed recommendations contained in the investigation report for hydraulic fracturing of 2012, as well as the Cabinet directive to augment the existing regulations.

“We believe, as government, that we have acted in the best possible way, in the interests of the South African economy and its citizens, and we will continue to do so as we traverse this journey of hydraulic fracturing for the production of shale gas,” said Shabangu.

The minister explained that a technical task-team was established to investigate the socio-economic and environmental impact, as well as any associated risks of shale gas exploration and exploitation. The investigation report made specific recommendations on measures that could be taken to mitigate the environmental impact of petroleum exploitation, with specific attention to shale gas hydraulic fracturing.

The main recommendation was to ensure that South Africa’s regulatory framework was robust enough to ensure that if hydraulic fracturing associated with shale gas exploration and exploitation were approved, any resultant negative impact would be mitigated.

Also, an inter-departmental committee was put together to look at strengthening the existing regulations. A comprehensive international benchmarking exercise of well-developed jurisdictions that have begun shale gas exploitation was also undertaken.

The technical regulations provide for the assessment of the potential impact of the proposed activities on the environment; the protection of fresh water resources and mechanisms for the co-existence of shale gas exploitation and the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project, among others.

“We have a responsibility as government to ensure security of energy supply for the country, and to explore energy sources that will improve the country’s energy mix, grow the economy and contribute to job creation.

“This will also enable us to contribute to the developmental objectives and targets set out in the National Development Plan (NDP),” said Shabangu.

She said by embarking on this process of exploring the opportunities presented by hydraulic fracturing for the production of shale gas, the country was a step closer to the achievement of its objectives.

The regulations will now be gazetted for a period of 30 days for public comment.

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