The current government's term ends next April. Africa's largest economy, heavily reliant on coal, is mulling nuclear power and shale gas as new energy sources. The country's semi-desert Karoo region potentially has one of the world's largest untapped shale fields.
The reserves are perhaps even larger than those of its neighbour Mozambique, Davies says. “The gas fields of Mozambique which have just opened have about a hundred trillion cubic metres of gas, and the shale gas deposit − some of the estimates would suggest that it is multiples of the Mozambican resource. If this is the case, it could be a very, very significant game changer in terms of the energy situation in South Africa."
If the estimates are accurate South Africa could have gas equal to 400 years of crude oil imports at the current rate, according to a study released last year and commissioned by Shell.
In September 2012 South Africa lifted a moratorium on shale gas exploration in the Karoo. This resulted in concerns among environmental activists about the effect on water quality in the arid region.
Davies says, "of course we are not going to do this in any kind of irresponsible way."