Shell said that as part of a review due to falling oil prices, the company had adjusted its activities in shale oil and gas opportunities away from South Africa.

It also said it had adjusted staffing in local exploration in South Africa. The company said it needed clarity on legislation and technical regulations in the country before making any further decisions.

“Should attractive commercial terms be put in place, the Karoo project could compete favourably within Shell’s global shale gas and oil portfolio. We will continue our ongoing consultation with government [and] industry about the long-term opportunities of shale gas exploration and the regulations that will govern this industry,” it said.

But the parliamentary source said, “Shell will resist saying it publicly, but they have given up on the government getting it together any time soon to fix the position of oil and gas companies in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act [MPRDA] or to release fracking [hydraulic fracturing] regulations.”

However, Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) head Jonathan Deal said in a statement,”Shell is a seasoned campaigner and what may at first blush appear to be a withdrawal from Karoo shale gas, may just be a Trojan horse,”

Business Day reported that Royal Dutch Shell had “critically reviewed the competitiveness” of its projects and plans internationally, including those relating to fracking.

TKAG said this could be a clever ploy to pressure government into speeding up shale gas exploration licences and regulations.