South Africa’s President has recently disclosed that the development of shale gas exploration in the Karoo is expected to be a game changer for the country’s economy. President Zuma further added that the potential risks and opportunities have been evaluated and that the final protocols will be publicized soon and will be followed by the processing and granting of licenses.

Speaking at the time, Mineral Resources Minister expressed that the potential of shale gas exploration and exploitation offers an opportunity for South Africa to commence exploring the production of its own fuel, and could provide huge impetus for the industrialisation of the economy.

Hydraulic fracturing involves the extraction of gas trapped underground by using pressurised liquid to fracture rock. Opponents of the process argue that the economic benefits of accessing previously unavailable energy sources are outweighed by the potential environmental impacts, including contamination of ground water.

An interdepartmental committee had been set up to strengthen the regulations, and a comprehensive international benchmarking exercise of well-developed jurisdictions that had begun shale gas exploitation had been undertaken.

Among other things, the draft regulations provide mechanisms for the assessment of the potential environmental impact of any proposed activities, for the protection of fresh water resources, and for the co-existence of shale gas exploitation and the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project.

Fun fact: South Africa has the eighth-largest shale gas reserves in the world at 390-trillion cubic feet.