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The Government of South Africa will put up for auction at least ten new onshore blocks for shale gas development in the ecologically sensitive Karoo region, Reuters reported, citing a government official.

The action is a part of the government’s strategy to find alternative energy sources to address the nation’s severe power crisis.

Fracking in the Karoo Basin has been halted for the past ten years due to opposition from farmers and environmentalists as well as regulatory uncertainties.

Reuters quoted Petroleum Agency of South Africa (PASA) chief operating officer Bongani Sayidini as saying: “We are potentially looking at a minimum of about ten shale gas blocks in the Karoo that will be released through competitive bidding.”

The first competitive auction for oil and gas resources in South Africa is anticipated to happen in 2024 or 2025 when legislation establishing the bid round is passed.

The auction will also include acreage once held by British energy giant Shell.

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By GlobalData

Shell’s 90,000km² is available after the oil major early last year withdrew an application to explore, Sayidini added.

As per PASA estimates, the Karoo Basin holds around 209 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of technically recoverable shale gas resources.  

However, in 2017 research, Geologists at the University of Johannesburg concluded that this was most likely 13tcf, the lower end of estimations that ranged from 13tcf to 390tcf.

According to the Academy of Sciences of South Africa’s Karoo shale gas action plan, which was published last year, even 5tcf would be sufficient for a 1–2GW gas-fired power station to produce electricity for up to 30 years.

According to Sayidini, the new shale blocks offered will be smaller to encourage participation. If adequate resources are discovered, it might take a decade or longer until the first gas is produced.