Government finally gazettes fracking rules
The long-awaited technical regulations for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) were gazetted this week after more than a year’s wait.
The regulations appeared on Wednesday and cover everything from the chemicals permitted in fracking wells to the design of the wells and the way in which they must be sealed when they eventually run dry.
The regulations have been so long in the making that the whole economic landscape for the potential extraction of shale gas in the Karoo has changed fundamentally.
The dramatic drop in the oil price has rendered shale prospects far less attractive than they were a year ago.
South Africa’s major holder of shale exploration licences, Shell, announced last month it was cooling its heels on the issue after being the chief promoter of shale gas exploration in South Africa.
Another aspiring shale producer with a significant foothold in the Karoo, the Australian company Challenger Energy, welcomed the new regulations on Friday.
The company owns 90% of Bundu Gas and Oil Exploration, which is looking at developing its Cranemere project in the southern Karoo in the Eastern Cape.
Robert Willes, managing director of Challenger Energy, said in a press release the regulations were “a demonstration that progress towards the issue of exploration rights continues to be made” even though his company still needed to review the content of the regulations.
The potential to extract massive amounts of natural gas in the Karoo is still hypothetical, with exploratory drilling having been held up by the long wait for government’s regulations.
However, the possibility of large-scale domestic gas resources has been described as “game changing” by government, although the issue of fracking has been met with vociferous resistance from South African environmental groups.