Briefing Parliament’s mineral resources portfolio committee, department director general Thibedi Ramontja said the technical regulations on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, would be finalised following the consultation process.
“That process, once that is done, it will be a very important process because it’s going to engage applicants.”
The final regulations would be followed by the processing and issuing of licences.
Applicants would be bound by strict regulations to ensure government mitigated against any environmental impact, including the contamination of ground water.
Fracking is the process of fracturing rock by pumping pressurised liquid deep into the ground to extract natural gas trapped in shale layers.
“I am confident that in the event there are problems, they will be picked up quickly if there’s any threat to water in that area [Karoo],” Ramontja said.
“I’m confident water will be protected.”
In addition to the generic regulations, prospective licencees would also be bound by additional standards as the geological areas where shale gas exploration would take place would differ.
Ramotja also moved quickly to allay fears that hydraulic fracturing could increase the risk of earthquakes.
“We will continuously monitor earthquakes in the area. The Council for Geoscience was part of this process,” he said.
“They are giving us input on issues of earthquakes, the tremors there. If risks start to increase, we will have to change the casing [standards].”
The casing is a steel pipe and cementing which is put in place to protect groundwater and maintain well integrity.
Ramotja said hydraulic fracturing was a “game changer” for not only the Karoo, but the country.
“If you look at what is happening in the USA in terms of shale gas, some people are suggesting it is contributing to the current economic growth in the USA.”