South Africa’s Karoo basin has about a thirtieth of the shale gas deposits than some estimates suggested, deflating expectations of an energy bonanza, a study published on Sept. 28 said.
The South African Journal of Science’s findings have been published shortly before the awarding of the first shale gas exploration licenses in the region. The government had said an award could happen by the end of September.
The gas development plans have drawn opposition from campaigners that said the plans threaten the environment of the semi-arid Karoo, famed for its rugged scenery and rare wildlife.
Geologists at the University of Johannesburg and three other institutions estimated the gas resource was about 13 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), the bottom of a range of estimates that had put deposits between 13 Tcf to 390 Tcf, the study said.
In 2015, the U.S. Energy and Information Administration (EIA) estimated the Karoo Basin’s “technically recoverable shale gas resource” at 390 Tcf, making it the eighth largest in the world and second largest in Africa, behind Algeria.
At 13 Tcf, it ranks thirty-fourth out of 46 nations in EIA estimates.
However, the authors of the study said that “such low estimates still represent a large resource with developmental potential for the South African petroleum industry.”
“To be economically viable, the resource would be required to be confined to a small, well-delineated ‘sweet spot’ area in the vast southern area of the basin,” they said.
The study said previous estimates were “speculative” and had been made without measurements of gas content.
Environmentalists and farmers have opposed opening up the Karoo for shale gas development, which would require “fracking”, a technique involving pumping water and chemicals at high pressure to crack the rock and release the gas.
Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS.A), Falcon Oil and Gas and Bundu Gas & Oil are among five firms whose applications were being reviewed by the regulator.
A county in southwestern China has ordered a halt to shale gas mining amid fears it may have helped cause an earthquake in the area that killed two people, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Tests of the first shale well at Cuadrilla’s site in northwest England show a rich reservoir of high quality and recoverable gas, the British firm said on Feb. 6, adding that rules that have constrained its testing work should be eased.
Australia's Woodside Petroleum Ltd on Jan. 17 flagged higher-than-expected investment spending for 2019 as it steps up early work on the two big natural gas developments that will drive its growth in the next decade.