South African President, Jacob Zuma, announced on Wednesday that the government will soon begin issuing licenses for shale gas exploration and drilling, although an exact date was not given. Speaking in Pretoria, President Zuma said “It is this government’s hope that we, together with your respective governments, will find practical opportunities to enhance the economic opportunities the shale gas sector has to present”.
He said that according to recent estimates, South Africa has the eight largest shale gas reserves in the world and the Karoo is believed to be holding up to 390 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas reserves. According to the American Energy Information Administration (EIA), the reserves may be closer to 485 trillion cubic feet
In April of 2011 the government placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracking in response to opposition from local communities and environmental groups. The South African cabinet has now set-up an interdepartmental task force to address those concerns which include environmental impact on ecosystems, waste management and water.
The exploration of shale gas is expected to ease the worsening energy shortage confronting the country which has been hard hit by constant power outages for nine months running.
President Zuma said: “We continue to pursue the development of an energy mix as energy security is critical to economic growth and social development. We are also determined to see through much needed infrastructure development programmes at continental level which will integrate African economies.”
Various groups, including the Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG), have protested against exploring for shale gas in Karoo due to fears of environmental damage and possible effects on water quality and availability in areas where water is scarce.
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