South Africa’s technical readiness to support the shale gas industry
PLEASE CITE AS FOLLOWS: Academy of Science of South Africa (2016) ‘South Africa’s Technical Readiness to Support the Shale Gas Industry’, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/assaf.2016/0003.
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The consensus report titled South Africa’s Technical Readiness to Support the Shale Gas Industry was produced by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in collaboration with the South African Academy of Engineering (SAAE). The report details the interventions that are required. The study was commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in 2014 and assesses current available information and technologies in the country should shale gas exploitation be implemented to counter energy challenges. The report was considered by Cabinet on 28 September 2016. The report concludes that much needs to be done to put in place a clear legislative environment and a rigorous regulatory and monitoring structure which will ensure that operators, in using their exploration and production licences, apply best-practice technologies that are fully compliant with the rules and regulations governing the industry. It states that decision-making processes on whether or not to proceed with the development of a shale gas industry must be based on robust and peer-reviewed evidence. Recommendations in the report highlight the need for several baseline studies with a view to improving the current understanding of the extent of the shale gas resources and the status of the local environment in which such developments will take place. Celebrating 20 years (1996 – 2016) in the service of society A key recommendation is that relevant departments, with DST oversight, should initiate a major project to undertake, prior to the commencement of shale gas exploration/exploitation, robust multidisciplinary, regional and local baseline studies. A major priority for the technical readiness of South Africa to implement a shale gas industry is the need to establish processes to continuously and accurately monitor key factors which will impact on the sustainability of the industry. Another requirement is that interventions are made to ensure that the requisite skills and infrastructure required to implement such an industry are available. The Hydraulic Fracturing Monitoring Committee is encouraged to take immediate steps to establish a new, or strengthen an existing, government agency whose overall function is, inter alia, to enable and facilitate the development of the shale gas industry in South Africa. Assessment of the economic implications of shale gas development for South Africa must be undertaken to critically assess the supply-demand situation, and comprehensive public consultation and engagement processes with local communities in the Karoo are emphasised. Of major importance to South Africa’s groundbreaking scientific endeavours on the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, the report recommends that any legislation that is introduced to have oversight of the shale gas industry must be fully aligned with the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act, and that no hydraulic fracturing should take place within a 30 km buffer zone of an SKA site.