Government could authorise shale gas exploration before next year’s elections, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Thursday (22/08/2013).
"We want to move before the end of this administration,” Davies said at a briefing on Thursday, following Cabinet’s fortnightly meeting.
"We need to advance the work on taking a decision on shale gas exploration.” Davies said Cabinet believed shale gas could be a vital component in South Africa’s quest for energy security, but at this stage the potential extent of local reserves remained unknown.
"Mossgas has a resource of about one trillion cubic metres of gas. The gas fields of Mozambique which have just opened have about a hundred trillion cubic metres of gas, and the shale gas deposit — some of the estimates would suggest that it is multiples of the Mozambican,” he said.
”If this was the case, this could be a very, very significant game changer in terms of the energy situation in South Africa.” Asked about the Karoo’s vociferous anti-fracking lobby, Davies replied that government would proceed with exploration in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
"Of course we are not going to do this in any kind of irresponsible way,” he said.
"We obviously have to bear in mind all the environmental implications including, of course, the nature of the relationships with any company that gets any kind of permit — what is going to be the delivery in terms of any positive impact on the economy.”
Davies said the decision on fracking was part of a range of steps agreed by Cabinet to stimulate investment and job creation in the face of fears that a downturn in commodity prices would hamper economic growth.
An integral part of this was to improve the electricity demand and supply balance because it was "a constraint to growth that requires immediate attention”.
On Wednesday, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe told Parliament scientists had advised government that it should seriously consider allowing fracking for shale gas because it could change the course of the economy. - Sapa