Shale Gas Development – A Scientific Assessment for South Africa

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Expiry: 7/15/2016 – 00:00

Stakeholders are invited to provide written comments on the scientific assessment for Shale Gas Development in South Africa. The deadline for submitting comments is 15 July 2016. Click here for full details.

The potential economic and energy security benefits of a large shale gas resource in the Karoo Basin could be substantial; as are both the positive and negative social and environmental issues associated with a domestic gas industry.

Shale gas development (SGD) has been presented to the South African public and decision makers as a dichotomous trade-off between economic opportunity and environmental protection. As such, it has already become a highly divisive topic, but one which is poorly informed by publically-available evidence.

To address this lack of critically-evaluated information, a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for SGD was commissioned in February 2015 by the Department of Environmental Affairs of the Republic of South Africa, with the support of the National Departments of Energy, Mineral Resources, Water Affairs and Sanitation, Science and Technology, and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and the Provincial Departments of the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape Governments.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) coordinated the SEA, in partnership with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Council for Geoscience (CGS). In addition to the national science councils, the SEA includes 135 independent authors contributing to the 18 Chapters of the assessment. The chapters have been independently reviewed by a further 21 local and 46 international independent peer review experts, and by a large number of stakeholders [in the second round of review, now open].

The point of departure for the SEA is that South African Government, through Cabinet and various other decision-making institutions, has made high-level public commitments to shale gas exploration.

If the exploration phase reveals economically-viable hydrocarbon deposits and gas-flow regimes, the Government will seriously consider permitting the development of those resources at significant scale. The South African society, collectively comprising all levels of government, the private sector and civil society, needs to be in a position to make the decisions relevant to that choice in a timely and responsible manner.

The mission statement for the SEA is to provide an integrated assessment and decision-making framework to enable South Africa to establish effective policy, legislation and sustainability conditions under which SGD could occur. Note that this mission statement, developed in PREFACE, Page 2 collaboration with government, is phrased in the conditional – it does not presume that SGD will occur.

The key objective of the SEA is to provide decision makers and stakeholders with an evidence base which will assist South Africa in developing a better understanding of the risks and opportunities associated with SGD. The SEA is not in itself a mandated decision-making process. The intention of the SEA is to provide the evidence base and decision support frameworks which will guide future decision-making processes, for example those associated with Environmental Impact Assessments for specific SGD-related activities, once it becomes clear exactly what those are and where they might be located

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