S.Africa’s gas master plan ready, official says

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa’s master plan to develop its gas market is finally ready after repeated delays as it aims to reduce its carbon emissions and avoid chronic power outages that have plagued Africa’s most developed economy for years.

The master plan will go to the cabinet before public release, a senior official at the department of mineral resources and energy (DMRE) said on Tuesday.

“It is done, it is going through the internal processes to go to cabinet for public comment”, Jacob Mbele, the chief director at the DMRE told journalists.

South Africa wants to diversify its energy mix away from ageing coal-fired power plants prone to breakdowns and help reduce harmful emissions from the continent’s top polluter. The country estimates it has gas resources of around 60 trillion cubic feet (tcf) offshore and a further 200 tcf onshore.

The failure to come up with a master plan, first raised almost a decade ago, has added to regulatory uncertainty in South Africa, where French energy company TotalEnergies was looking to develop two large offshore gas finds.

Another DMRE official said last month the new gas master plan was designed to balance the demand and supply of natural gas until 2050, modelled on data gleaned and verified by the industry.

The gas master plan uses three scenarios – low, medium and high – and showed that gas-to-power projects will initially dominate gas uptake in South Africa as the country looks to re-purpose decommissioned coal-fired plants to run on gas.

The plan also considers that South Africa, which gets the bulk of its gas from petrochemical major Sasol’s fields in Mozambique, will face an imminent gas shortage from 2026 as these fields start running dry.

The gas master plan is expected to be made public before the end of December.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Promit Mukherjee and Louise Heavens)