Shale Gas affirmation for the African continent

A number of African countries possess considerable deposits of Shale Gas which can be exploited and benefit of economic development but exploitation will need due environmental care, says a report published by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The findings of the report will have great resonance in South Africa where government in the face of objections issued green light to exploration of Shale Gas in the Karoo. Global energy giant Shell is circling the Shale Gas business in South Africa.

The AfDB report said several African countries have potentially viable shale gas deposits, which, if developed, could lead to lower gas prices, increased consumption of natural gas, reduced greenhouse gas emissions from power generation and substantial economic benefits to producer countries. The study reviews estimates that have been made for shale gas deposits in Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, South Africa and the Western Sahara.

Titled “Shale Gas and its Implications for Africa and the African Development Bank”, the study examines both the positive and cautionary lessons that Africa can learn from the shale gas revolution in the United States (US).

The study notes that the development and production of shale gas can present substantial environmental challenges. “These include the large amounts of water required for extraction, water contamination, increased seismic activity and the venting and flaring of associated gas. Governments and the public must consider the most advantageous way to proceed before embarking on the full development of the resource, they stressed”.

Kurt Lonsway, AfDB manager of environment and climate change in the Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department, said “The AfDB is encouraged by the study’s findings in terms of the economic promise that new shale gas extraction techniques could hold for the region. At the same time, we cannot stress enough how important it is that production is accompanied by good environmental planning and management,”

In a foreword to the report, AfDB President Donald Kaberuka, affirms the Bank’s willingness to support these and any other member countries and sub-regions that have shale gas prospects.

The study observed that after Shale Gas exploration and production in the US, by 2012 production amounted to one-third of the country’s total gas output. Supplies of gas from shale have cut spot gas prices by more than half.

In communicating South Africa’s latest decree, the country’s minister of mineral resources, Susan Shabangu, made it clear that the Shale Gas train is going ahead.

“We have a responsibility as Government to ensure security of energy supply for the country, and to explore energy sources that will improve the country’s energy mix, grow the economy and contribute to job creation. This will also enable us to contribute to the developmental objectives and targets set out in the National Development Plan (NDP).”

Not only does the potential of shale gas exploration and exploitation provide an opportunity for us to begin exploring the production of our own fuel, among other things, but it also marks the beginning of the reindustrialization of the South African economy”.

This decree came after widespread protest in South Africa that Shale Gas exploration will cause immeasurable environmental damages, The South African government reacted by imposing a moratorium on exploration and called for an investigation. It established a technical task-team to investigate the socio-economic and environmental impact.

Shabangu said “Government is satisfied that the Technical Regulations have sufficiently addressed recommendations contained in the Investigation Report for hydraulic fracturing of 2012, as well as the Cabinet directive to augment the existing Regulations.”

We believe, as Government, that we have acted in the best possible way, in the interests of the South African economy and its citizens, and we will continue to do so as we traverse this journey of hydraulic fracturing for the production of shale gas”.

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