What is shale gas?

Shale gas is a natural gas that is occurring and can be extracted from Shale. The natural gas can be utilised for energy production. “South Africa has an estimate of 390 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of technically recoverable natural gas that can be extracted from Shale and this is embedded in the Karoo Basin (Figure 1(a))”. The natural gas estimates of the country are technically unproven. Detailed research studies are very crucial for the country because Shale gas exploration in South Africa could be facing two major unknown geological questions:

  • The amount of economically recoverable gas trapped in the Karoo formations;
  • “The geo-environmental problems linked to the nature and the structure (Figure 1(b)) of the rock, the ground water migration and the micro-seismicity”


Figure 1: (a) Map Showing the Karoo Basin  Figure 1: (b) Map showing the dolerite distribution in the Karoo basin


Shale Gas Research Project at CGS:

The Council for Geoscience (CGS) is embarking on a shale gas research project that is aimed at unlocking the unknowns and assumptions about shale gas exploration in the country. The project is also aimed at building scientific skills in the area of shale gas exploration as this is a new concept to the country at large.

The programme is funded by the Department of Mineral Resources and will assist the government in making well informed decision about shale gas in South Africa.

The objectives of the programme is to collect and review new geological information of the Karoo Basin, to define an environmental baseline, to assess the amount of recoverable gas mainly from the Whitehill and Prince Albert Formations, to cover various geo-environmental impacts like ground water dynamics with possible contamination, and monitor potential seismic interferences.

The CGS Shale gas project will serve as a baseline study for future shale gas research work and play a vital role in review of Petroleum Exploration and Exploitation Regulations. NEMA regulations will be utilised as a framework in identifying shortfalls of the environmental impacts of the shale gas.