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The Karoo Deep Drilling is a five year geo-environmental base line programme designed to  better understand the

potential impact of geo-resource exploration activities (minerals, gas, deep groundwater, and geothermal) on theKaroo geo-environment.

Particular focus is given to the looming shale gas exploration.  Beaufort West was selected because it lies within the shale gas ‘sweet spot’. The five-year scientific programme includes three phases:

  • Phase 1: Base line study at regional and local scales;
  • Phase 2: Drilling of a deep borehole (down to 3500m), monitoring holes (down to 750m) and observation holes (down to 150m), with “down the hole” geophysics, and including rock core and groundwater sampling;
  • Phase 3: Borehole result analyses, including detailed study of the core, gas and/or mineral analysis and on-going monitoring of any geo-environmental changes and impacts.

Figure XX: Map showing the area earmarked as the “shale gas sweetspot” in Beaufort West, which is a chosen site for the Karoo Deep Drilling Programme.              

Shale gas is a natural gas consisting primarily of methane and about 20% higher hydrocarbons (primarily ethane). Increasing exploration to find domestic gas feedstock (including investigating shale and coal bed methane reserves) to diversify the energy mix and reduce carbon emissions (National Development Plan Vision 2030).

South Africa has an estimated 485 trillion cubic feet (13733.7 billion cubic metre) (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2011 and Fakir, 2015) and 390 trillion cubic feet (11043.6 billion cubic metre) (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2013) in technically recoverable natural gas from shale reservoirs.

However, South Africa cannot make an environmental assessment of the Karoo’s shale gas exploitation by hydraulic fracturing with the currently available Legal Framework. Thus, the Karoo Deep Drilling project will serve as a baseline study for future shale gas research work and play a vital role in review of petroleum regulations (Government Gazette, No. R. 466, 3 June 2015).