South Africa OKs fracking for natural gas
South Africa has lifted a ban on the hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method for tapping natural gas reserves commonly known as "fracking," according to OilPrice.com. South Africa ranks among the top ten global owners of shale gas resources and some say fracking will help the country exploit these resources.
In many countries, the contentious issue of using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to develop otherwise unexploitable natural gas reserves has led to policy debates of prosperity versus potential environmental damage.Skip to next paragraph
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For countries faced with massive hydrocarbon import bills the issue is particularly acute, and many countries are keeping their fingers crossed about the practice. For South Africa, a net importer of energy with about 90 percent of its power supply being coal-based, any and all alternatives are under consideration.
South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources in April 2011 placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. Two weeks ago the DMR lifted the moratorium, specifically on fracking for shale natural gas and last week released the detailed version of the report it commissioned on hydraulic fracturing.
The DMR report, “Investigation of hydraulic fracturing in the Karoo Basin of South Africa” noted, "The study comprises reports written by specialists in their various fields as well as the results of a study tour to the United States which included field trips to Pennsylvania (Marcellus Shale) and Texas (Eagle Ford Shale) and visits to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Railroad Commission of Texas, both being US regulatory organizations directly involved with shale gas exploitation.” The report further continues, “The primary conclusion reached in this report is that South Africa’s regulatory framework must be robust enough to ensure that, if hydraulic fracturing associated with shale gas exploration and exploitation were approved, any resultant negative impacts would be mitigated. This will require a comprehensive review of the adequacy of the existing framework in order to identify any shortfalls or omissions and to ensure that it is sufficiently detailed and specific. The use of existing regulations from mature regulatory environments to inform the development of South African regulations in this matter is recommended.” (RELATED: Will a Melting Arctic Help Postpone Peak Oil?)
There are certainly reserves to exploit, as, according to the estimates one reads, South Africa ranks among the top ten global owners of shale gas resources, perhaps even as high as number five. The U.S. government Energy Information Administration’s initial estimates of South Africa shale gas reserves are that there are technically recoverable a massive 485 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas in the Karoo Basin.