Shale Gas in South Africa: Unrealized Potential
Reviewed by James L. Abrahamson, contributing editor
South Africa presently produces and consumes little natural gas, and environmental concerns about fracking and geologic challenges have impeded exploitation of the country’s estimated 13 trillion cubic meters of shale gas. Rather than exploit that potential source of energy, Pretoria favors coal, nuclear power, and renewable energy resources.
Should the South African government change its current policies, many things stand in the way of developing the country’s shale gas potential: Complex geologic features such as volcanic intrusions make drilling too expensive for the government to undertake. Though major oil companies nevertheless seem willing to drill, the country’s lack of a pipeline infrastructure to transport gas and the large quantities of water needed for fracking are other deterrents, as is environmental concern over the impact of that process’s chemicals.
That South Africa is already a leader in gas-to-liquid (GTL) technology, which turns coal or natural gas into gasoline or diesel. China, France, South Korea, and possibly Japan are competing for authority to build a new nuclear power plant, which may also prompt Pretoria to turn away from its immense supply of shale gas, reserves of which rank the county fifth in the world.