SA oil and gas: Prepare to meet thy boom – Mosa Mabuza, State’s chief geologist

More than 75 000 people have read last month’s BizNews article based on our interview last month with James Lorimer, DA Shadow Mineral Resources Minister where he likened the country’s oil and gas potential to the Diamond and Gold booms that transformed the country. At last count, the recording of that interview on YouTube has been watched by almost 140 000 people. Here’s the obvious follow up – the “official” view from the South African State’s chief geologist, Mosa Mabuza. His message, based on the science, is equally upbeat. In effect: Prepare to Meet Thy Boom. Good news at a time when the country really needs it. – Alec Hogg

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In this interview, Mosa Mabuza, CEO of South Africa’s Council for Geoscience – which means he is essentially the State’s Chief Geologist – discusses the exciting potential for shale gas in South Africa – and the rich prospects offshore extending from massive gas finds above the borders of the country’s West and East Coasts.

He explains that in 2007-2008, a petroleum scientist from the United States visited South Africa to assess the shale gas reserves in the country. The scientist, as part of the US’s efforts to achieve energy independence, examined the coal samples drilled by SOEKOR in the 1950s and 60s – and estimated a potential of around 490 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in South Africa.

Read more: CSIR’s Monique le Roux: SA’s loadshedding solution in abundant gas, renewables – execution required

Mabuza emphasized the significance of this estimate: it would be the fourth largest shale gas reserve in the world – and compares with the the Mossel Bay gas field where just one trillion cubic feet of gas was instrumental in powering Mosgas for 30 years. The enthusiasm surrounding the discovery led to the former president of South Africa announcing shale gas as a game changer in a State of the Nation Address.

However, concerns were raised by the public regarding the environmental impact of shale gas extraction, particularly in terms of polluting the already water scarce Karoo, where the onshore gas is situated. As a result, the South African government halted further development until comprehensive research could be conducted to address these concerns. The research took some time as it aimed to ensure public support and involvement.

Read more: Karoo Gas Debate: Regulator supports Hersov – updated model concludes there’s huge resources so “let’s get drilling”

Mabuza revealed that a comprehensive study had been concluded, involving drilling a vertical research hole in the Beaufort West area and analyzing numerous samples. The research findings confirmed the presence of shale gas in South Africa, with a conservative estimate of 209 trillion cubic feet in the Karoo basin. Of this there appears to be at least 8 trillion cubic feet in the Beaufort West area alone, which has the potential to transform the district.

The Council for Geoscience CEO stressed the research had provided assurance that thr Karoo’s groundwater and the environment could be protected during extraction. Data from the research would shape the regulations being jointly developed by the Departments of Mineral Resources and Energy; Forestry, Fisheries and Environment; as well as Water and Sanitation.

Read more: Coal remains king as Sasol scrambles to run on gas and hydrogen in SA

Mabuza also addressed concerns about increased seismic activity associated with shale gas extraction.

He explained the Council for Geoscience had installed additional seismic stations to monitor seismic motions and establish a baseline. Although some basins in the USA had reported increased seismicity rates, Mabuza stated that seismicity was influenced by various geological factors and that South Africa did not anticipate a significant increase in seismicity due to shale gas extraction.

The interview highlighted the potential of shale gas to address South Africa’s energy challenges, particularly the need for a permanent and low-carbon dioxide emission source of electricity. Gas is considered a climate-friendly energy source, aligning with the country’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

The conversation also touched on the potential for offshore oil and gas discoveries, with Mabuza noting the geological continuity from Angola, Namibia, and Mozambique where massive finds have been confirmed and are in various stages of exploitation.