In addition to Cacadu into which sections of the Little Karoo fall, the department is also looking at shale gas potential in Amathole, Joe Gqabi and Chris Hani district municipalities.
The Chris Hani DM includes the towns of Cradock and Queenstown and stretches close to Graaff-Reinet in the West; the Joe Gqabi DM is in the North East of the prince bordering on the Free State and includes the towns of Aliwal North and Burgersdorp and Amathole essentially takes in the rural areas around Buffalo City.
The Department said in a statement that in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) it was seeking to invest in a cutting edge scientific research capability that would provide scientific data on various study areas of the shale gas.
The initial phase of the project involves the creation of a forensic base-line for shallow ground water reservoirs in the Eastern Cape ahead of shale gas exploration. This will be achieved through a ground-water monitoring program with community-based participation to stimulate capacity building and entrepreneurship.
The project has been named FLOW2 (Field Level Operation Water Watch).
The department said the aim of the first phase would be:
- To determine what is not known about shale gas and the reserves
- To conduct a forensic analysis of water and gas fracking in the Karoo to determine whether it was safe, cost-effective and beneficial
- Monitoring against the natural base-line, and
- Conducting an assessment of the technical skills needed by the provincial economy to maximize the benefits.
The initial study period will last two years and cost R16 million of which R7.3 million will be capital expenditure. The funds were provided in the Adjustment Budget tabled in the Eastern Cape Legislature last week.
The project will produce scientific data that will be applied in the work on shale gas exploration and will also be used to train artisans and scientists who will be better equipped to participate in shale gas exploration.
According to the Econometrix research it is estimated that developing just one 10th of South Africa's estimated shale gas resources could boost the economy by R200bn ($19.56 billion) a year and create 700 000 jobs.
The project also dovetails with the initiative to make the Eastern Cape a new energy hub of South Africa that includes a substantial number of wind farms and Nuclear 1, the nuclear power station planned for Thyspunt near Oyster Bay about 80 kilometres from Port Elizabeth on which a final decision is now awaited.
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