Our Burning Planet

AFRICA ENERGY INDABA

Mantashe allays fears of looming SA gas crisis amid protests against continued use of the fuel

Mantashe allays fears of looming SA gas crisis amid protests against continued use of the fuel
Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe addresses the 16th annual Africa Energy Indaba at Cape Town International Convention Centre on 5 March 2024. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard)

Outside the Africa Energy Indaba where Gwede Mantashe was speaking, Extinction Rebellion and the Green Connection protested against ‘green gas’ and the intent to turn to gas as a transition fuel to replace Eskom’s ageing coal-powered fleet.

In his keynote speech at the Africa Energy Indaba on Tuesday at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe allayed fears that South Africa would run out of natural gas in June 2026, when Sasol will stop supplying the resource from Mozambique.

Manatshe said alternative plans were already being implemented to mitigate the impact and avoid a shortage.

mantashe gas protest

Extinction Rebellion and the Green Connection protesters said investing in new offshore gas projects went against South Africa’s international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, would damage ocean resources and biodiversity and threaten coastal public property and livelihoods. (Photo: Kristin Engel)

With the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources had established a task team that included private sector players to develop a joint strategy that “will ensure a seamless transition and business continuity, thus ameliorating potential job losses”.

Mantashe said a Gas Master Plan would be presented to Cabinet this month.

“To further mitigate the negative impacts of this eventuality, last year we entered into negotiations with the Mozambican government and crafted a memorandum of understanding (MOU) covering two aspects: partnering and trading on electrons from their Mphanda Nkuwa project and partnering and trading on gas molecules from their newly discovered gas fields and Matola LNG hub,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SA has ‘four months’ to avoid a natural gas Day Zero as Sasol contract supply crisis looms

The minister said that the MOU was ready to be signed and would be put into action this month.

As part of interventions through the Central Energy Fund, Mantashe said the government had signed a gas sales agreement with Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos (ENH) in Mozambique, with a potential to deliver up to 200 petajoules of natural gas.

PetroSA has applied to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) for a gas trading licence for this agreement and according to Mantashe, the granting of the licence will ensure a continuous gas supply.

Africa Gas Forum

During the Africa Gas Forum, a side event at the indaba on Monday, stakeholders raised concerns about how issues with clean fuels, infrastructure and development had hindered positive developments from the boom of gas in Africa.

One participant said, “We’ve heard about the boom of gas in Africa, but it appears that the one to benefit most over the years is the conference industry.” 

The participant claimed that year after year the same conversations and speeches were made at energy conferences with little to no action, resulting in the supply of domestic gas being stifled in SA.

Nick Mitchell from the Onshore Petroleum Association of South Africa said new legislation was needed to unlock the supply of domestic gas in South Africa. 

Protest action and myth-busting

mantashe gas protest

Protesters outside the 16th annual Africa Energy Indaba at Cape Town International Convention Centre. (Photo: Kristin Engel)

Outside the indaba, members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the Green Connection protested against “green gas” and gas company executives intent on persuading South African decision-makers to turn to gas as a transition fuel to replace Eskom’s ageing coal-powered fleet.

“They will be repeating the myths that are used to persuade South Africans that we need this fossil fuel. We are here today to dismantle those myths and to say that our energy security, our economic security, our climate security and continued life on Earth all depend on a speedy transition to renewable energy,” said XR spokesperson Judy Scott-Goldman.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that natural gas, which emits less carbon than most other fossil fuels, has a limited role as a transition fuel from coal to renewable energy sources. However, the agency said natural gas power generation may still be needed as backup for variable wind and solar power.

Lisa Makaula, an advocacy officer for the Green Connection, told Daily Maverick: “We are concerned that gas is promoted to be climate-friendly, given the fact that gas has been proven to be 80 times more impactful compared to carbon dioxide due to the greenhouse gas emissions it releases, namely methane.

mantashe gas protest

Members of Extinction Rebellion and the Green Connection protest against ‘myths associated with green gas’ outside the Africa Energy Indaba in Cape Town on Tuesday, 5 March 2024. (Photo: Kristin Engel)

“If we are to curb climate change and respond to it, there should be solutions and a way forward of not investing in projects that are going to accelerate the problem.”

Holding up a placard stating “Nothing green about gas”, Scott-Goldman told Daily Maverick that they were focused on gas because of widespread misperceptions about it.

“The first thing is that Gwede Mantashe is very busy telling the world that we cannot use renewables for baseload power, and yet the Presidential Climate Commission, which is some of the best-informed people on this topic, are saying that we can,” she said.

Scott-Goldman was referring to the report by the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC), which advised that there should be no new coal-fired power stations and that gas should be kept to fulfil the role of peaking support for a renewable-dominated electricity mix. 

“In other words, a small amount of gas may be needed but not high use, and gas may not be needed at all once the many different energy storage systems that are currently being developed become mainstream options.

“The PCC not only states that it’s perfectly technically feasible to run our electricity system on renewable energy, but it’s also least-cost. So why would we go for the more expensive option?” Scott-Goldman said.  

Critical metals

In an interview with Daily Maverick on the sidelines of the gas forum, Wits Seismic Research Centre director Dr Musa Manzi, who was also a speaker at the event, said that currently, renewable energy could not sustainably power South Africa. 

“With renewable energy, wind turbines and solar panels require critical metals such as rare earth, platinum and pegs, manganese and iron and, at the moment, the world is not producing enough of these to manufacture these resources. 

“We are struggling to meet the demand for critical metals. That is why we are saying renewables can play an integral role, but at the present moment, they are not able to provide enough energy for all South Africans,” he said.

Scott-Goldman said another misperception was that gas was a clean green fuel that was climate-friendly.

“But the problem is that gas is 90% methane, and methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years of its life. They’ve now found that there’s leaks of methane all the way along the supply chain,” she said.

Manzi agreed that the use of gas as a fuel was leaking methane into the atmosphere. 

“Methane, apart from carbon, can also be dangerous in the short term. Those are things that should be looked at … considering those risks could happen throughout the production process [of gas].

“Carbon emission is as bad as methane emissions, but there are mitigation risks in terms of basically eliminating the carbon as well as the methane at the production stage. Those are things that will be explored; we have to look at carbon and methane because I think it could be as dangerous as carbon,” he said. 

The protesters also said it was a myth that using gas would boost South Africa’s economy.

“Gas pricing doesn’t account for the true carbon cost (the climate change harm) of extracting, liquefying, transporting, re-gasifying and burning this fuel, or the environmental damage caused,” Scott-Goldman said.

“Countries that are decarbonising are imposing taxes on carbon-intensive imports, which will make South African goods less competitive globally if we go the route of manufacturing with gas-powered electricity. South Africa is likely to have limited markets for exporting gas because moving gas long distances makes its climate impact worse.”

‘Anti-development’

In response to the protest taking place outside the venue, Mantashe said, “Those who want to demonstrate that we are anti-development must continue demonstrating. Those who want development must push against that stream of anti-development and continue developing.

“Shell wanted to do a seismic survey in South Africa; there were demonstrations all over and Shell left us for Namibia and made oil and gas discoveries there. Today there are 10 wells in Namibia, here we have not touched anything — that is the difference between a positive view that is in favour of development and a view that is anti-development.”

Mantashe said that notwithstanding “persistent threats to the development of the South African upstream petroleum industry by foreign-funded lobby groups”, South Africa had made significant new finds of natural gas.

“The discovery of gas by TotalEnergies in the Outeniqua Basin, and the discovery of maiden gas reserves by Kinetiko Energy in Amersfoort, Mpumalanga, are strategically placed to strengthen South Africa’s energy security and propel the quest for industrialisation that will bring about growth and development,” he said. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ben Harper says:

    Looks like the members of Extinction Rebellion are just about extinct themselves, a couple of years at most

    • Jeff Robinson says:

      An incontestable observation, but I have to wonder if you see this as an indication that they are just some old-hippies with nothing better to do. The lack of participation from succeeding generations should cause us despair, suggesting an indifference to environmental issues that is consistent with what I have witnessed from millennials and post-millennials as a university lecturer. Where do you stand Ben?

      • Middle aged Mike says:

        I’ll bet a buck that some of them are long term trust funders who live on the residues of fortunes made from exactly the sorts of businesses they seek to close down. I’ve lived through enough of the scaremongering, screeching and hypocrisy that comes from these kinds of activists that I tend very much towards ignoring them.

        • Ben Harper says:

          I’d go further than that Mike, I see more an more retaliation against them and a huge growth in the number of people that just want to beat the cr@p out of them

        • Jeff Robinson says:

          Ignore them if you will, but ignoring the reality of climate change and the impacts this will have economically is absurd and irresponsible. Somehow I thought that DM readers were of a higher calibre. I am a member of Extinction Rebellion and anything but wealthy monetarily. Perhaps both you and Ben need to avoid ad hominen arguments and deal with the actual issues at hand.

          • Middle aged Mike says:

            Calling out fear mongering hysterical prophesying and gross hypocrisy isn’t an ad hominem attack Jeff. When I meet a member of an organization like yours who can explain to me in terms that we both understand how what they I give up will save the planet in a calm and rational manner I’d be more inclined to take them seriously. From where I stand its hard to distinguish them from any of the thousands of doomsday cults that preceded them. Looks like y’all are having a blast though so rock on.

          • Ben Harper says:

            Perhaps your and your radical buddies can stop disrupting common people with your nonsense and do something worthwhile instead of peddling the fake narrative

          • Bernhard Scheffler says:

            Indeed!

            It is naive to ignore the reality of climate change! Only those unable to distinguish fossil-fuelled propaganda from fact do so!

      • Ben Harper says:

        Look at the demographic of Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil overseas and they reflect the same thing, old hippies and well-off people with nothing better to do and spoilt entitled students who have never had to work a day in their lives and their university fees are funded by mummy and daddy. The common man doesn’t but the fake narrative and the more these radical organisations disrupt the common man from going about their daily business the more ire they draw and the more people turn against their fake narrative

  • Charles Butcher says:

    What he said is that HE would be the sole supplier of GAS in the future as the biggeßt “blow hard” in the anc governmunt

  • Ian Gwilt says:

    If he has a solution
    time to worry

  • Geoff Coles says:

    The ANC should stay away from Master Plans, it involved critical thinking.

  • Alan Watkins says:

    “Mantashe said alternative plans were already being implemented to mitigate the impact and avoid a shortage.” And I am sure he said that hundred times about looming shortages of electricity, actual shortages, low level load shedding, high level load shedding, and then being in a position where Eskom has no reasonable prospect of closing the electricity supply demand gap within the next 5 years

  • Paul Jones says:

    Does anyone believe a word this delinquent says? Probably went to Namibia because they didn’t want to pay the backhand fees of the ANC….

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Hands up if that allayed your fears. Anyone?

  • Arthur Lilford says:

    Mantashe you are the problem

  • Deon Botha-Richards says:

    Scott-Goldman is perpetuating myths. You cannot release the same gas (methane) into the atmosphere if you burn methane. The output from methane use is CO2 and H2O.

    Methane may be 80 times more potent than CO2 but gas power stations emit 25% of the CO2 of coal.

    Nobody claims gas is environmentally friendly. But it is a fact that it is incredibly better than coal.

    And no solar is not the cheapest option if you’re using it for base load with energy storage. It’s is actually about 10 times the cost of nuclear.

    • Hari Seldon says:

      Problem is gas production leaks enormous amounts of methane! Thats long before its even burnt in a power station. Methane has only one carbon atom and is a tiny molecule that leaks from pipelines and production sites. And we can easily track this from satellite sensors.

      • Joe Irwin says:

        Leaves and dead plants etc that coat the ground in forests are producing methane as they decompose. Landfill sites are constantly emitting methane. When you add this up it’s far more than gas production leaks.

        • Michele Rivarola says:

          Nope it is not. The natural gas that is used and extracted is over and above that which is why it is a serious problem as it is way over what the natural balances can absorb in nature’s self regeneration cycle. Given that the carbon cycle is 300 years we either reduce not only what we are emitting but also reduce what is already in the atmosphere this planet will be unliveable in another 50 years.

  • Bob Fraser says:

    Bob. March 6th 2024 at 15:27
    Is there any reason to believe Mantashe who has been stringing the country along for years? I don’t think son CTC

  • jcdville stormers says:

    How do you allay fears when your forte is to stuff up continously

  • Nick Griffon says:

    Yet another ANC plan destined to fail.

  • Jay Kingfisher says:

    It’s a bit concerning to see the level of ignorance and cynicism towards the local chapter of Extinction Rebellion amongst Daily Maverick readers. I say well done to those protestors!!

    Environmental breakdown and climate change are among the biggest challenge facing humanity. Climate change acts as risk multiplier across all sectors of the economy, and is contributing to global food inflation and refugees. South Africa with its high levels of poverty, crumbling infrastructure, extremely carbon intensive energy system and dysfunctional state is at significant risk. Anyone who has a curious mind, and who has invested a little time looking at the data coming from all sources, would know that. Ben Harper, Jeff Robinson and Middle aged Mike have clearly spent the last decade drinking too much brandy and coke.

    • jcdville stormers says:

      Its not ignorance,they are realists,money talks bulldust walks,the big corporations are never gonna change,

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      Why not have a go at explaining how we run the economy and feed our already hungry nation after we shut down everything that the rocket scientists at Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil and the rest of the frothy mouthed cultists insist we should? A focus on the carbon emission free agricultural sector would be a useful one to help ignoramuses like me better grasp the thinking. References to the ‘data’ that substantiates your reply would be appreciated. While you’re about it, toss in some wisdoms on how China, India and the rest of the very rapidly developing and carbon emitting world are responding to the huge numbers of protests that your brave and selfless activists conduct in their countries? I’m a whisky guy and haven’t been near a brandy and coke since the 80’s BTW. Fat, ignorant middle aged men come in all flavours and some can even be polished up and rolled out in polite company without anyone noticing. Some of us may even be in your families or place of work.

    • Ben Harper says:

      The only thing Extinction Rebellion and their rebel offshoot Just Stop Oil deserve is ridicule and disdain. Toddle off and enjoy your skinny almond milk latte’s and let the world get on without the infantile and hypocritical behavior. Better still, take your little protests to India and China, the world’s worst polluters and see how far you get there

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