South Africa’s government expects results this year from its shale gas research well being drilled in the country’s semi-arid Karoo basin.

This deep stratigraphic well aims to develop a geological and environmental baseline for what, if sanctioned by the government, would be a highly controversial plan to allow shale gas exploration — and hydraulic fracturing — activities to proceed in the water-scarce region.

According to Tshifhiwa Thovhogi, divisional geologist at the Petroleum Agency of South Africa, the Karoo Deep Drilling (KDD) well has passed the halfway mark en route to a final depth of 3500 metres.