Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe says that his department has discovered pockets of shale gas in the Karoo basin.
Previous estimates have predicted that South Africa could have as much as 390 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of technically recoverable natural gas, which can be utilised for energy production.
Presenting his budget speech on Tuesday (18 May), Mantashe said that the discovery comes after the department began drilling a 3.5km strati-graphic hole in September 2020, in attempts to detect the gas.
The drilling work also aims to understand the geology and environmental characteristics of the area, he said.
“I am pleased to share with this house that as of yesterday, we had drilled to a depth of 2,750 meters.
“The first pocket of gas was intercepted at 1 734 meters with a further substantial amount intercepted at 2,467 meters spanning a depth of 55 meters. To date, a total of 34 gas samples have been bottled in canisters and taken to one of our laboratories for analysis.”
Mantashe said that the two gas finds, an onshore gas operation in the Free State, and prospects underway along South Africa’s western and eastern territorial waters are delivering positive signals that the country’s economy will benefit from alternative resource discoveries.
“South Africa continues to pursue an energy mix as espoused in the country’s energy blueprint, the Integrated Resource Plan.
“Even though South Africa and the rest of the world are increasingly under pressure to mitigate against climate change, South Africa’s energy capacity is largely dependent on fossil fuels. In an alternative universe, one would immediately eliminate fossil fuel-generated energy such as coal and petroleum.
“However, this is not our reality, our reality is that we have vast reserves of coal and petroleum resources which we continue to exploit,” he said.
Though this is the case, Mantsahe said the government is committed to a ‘just transition’ and has begun investing in clean technologies to ensure that it moves from a high to low carbon economy, while ensuring the security of energy supply.