Byline: Kelebogile Masemola
14 July 2022
The Department of Environmental, Forestry & Fisheries (DFFE) is calling on the public to comment on proposed regulations pertaining to the exploration and production of onshore oil and gas requiring hydraulic fracturing.
DFFE is also publishing for consultation, the intention to prescribe minimum requirements to submit applications for an authorisation, right, permit or licence for the onshore exploration of oil and gas intending to utilise hydraulic fracturing.
The proposed Regulations and minimum requirements have been published by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, in terms of the National Environmental Management Act.
The publication of the proposed Regulations comes four years after the Supreme Court of Appeal set aside the Regulations for Petroleum Exploration and Production that were intended to set standards for the use of hydraulic fracturing technology on the basis that they were managing environmental impacts and only the Minister responsible for the environment was empowered to make regulations on environmental matters.
“General and specific requirements are set for ongoing environmental monitoring of hydraulic fracturing and production operations, while effect is given to co-ordination between decision-making authorities in relation to monitoring, environmental assessments, time frames for the consideration of applications, conditions of approval and decision-making process.
The hydraulic Fracturing Regulation will be supported by two Minimum Information Requirements (MIR).
The first document will consider the environmental requirements for exploration and production utilising hydraulic fracturing technology, and the second will consider the environmental requirements for exploration and production utilising hydraulic fracturing technology” said DFFE.
The Regulations identify prohibited activities and prohibited geographic areas for the use of hydraulic fracturing technology, which include the use of potable water for hydraulic fracturing activities and the use of municipal water treatment facilities for the disposal of wastes from hydraulic fracturing operations.
In addition, an environmental authorisation is required for each phase of the process including seismic survey without hydraulic fracturing, and the production phase.
This step-wise approach allows for information to be generated to support each phase of the process and will facilitate the consideration of cumulative impacts of the operation.
These documents are to provide guidance to developers on the authorisation requirements for all decision-making and will facilitate a “one stop authorisation process”.
The first Minimum information Requirement being “The Minimum Requirements for the Submission of Applications for an Authorisation, Right, Permit or Licence for the Onshore Exploration of Oil and Gas Intending to Utilise Hydraulic Fracturing, Revision 0 May 2022”, has been developed and is available for public comment.
The objectives of the MIR are as follows:
To identify and consolidate the authorisation requirements of all decision-making authorities into one guidance document for the information of the applicant;
To facilitate the combination of the information prepared in line with the Minimum Requirements into one consolidated impact assessment report and base line monitoring plan;
To facilitate the process of simultaneous application submission for the authorisation, permits or licences required for the onshore exploration of oil and gas intending to utilise hydraulic fracturing; and, to facilitate the process of simultaneous decision making.
A second MIR document dealing with the actual impacts of hydraulic fracturing entitled “The Minimum Information Requirement for the Submission of Applications for the Authorisation, Right, Permit or Licence for Onshore Exploration and Production of Oil and Gas Utilising Hydraulic Fracturing” will be prepared in the near future.
The public has 45 days to comment and make written submissions on the Regulations and the Minimum Requirements.
The proposed regulations pertaining to exploration and production of onshore oil and gas requiring hydraulic fracturing can be accessed at: https://www.dffe.gov.za/sites/default/files
The minimum requirements for the submissions of applications for an authorisation, right, permit or licence for the onshore exploration of oil and gas intending to utilise hydraulic fracturing can be accessed at https://www.dffe.gov.za/sites/default/files.