Merit in controlled fracking - DG

2012-05-02 22:45

Cape Town - There is "merit" in carrying out some hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for shale gas in the Karoo, Environmental Affairs Director General Nosipho Ngcaba said on Wednesday.

"It does seem there is merit, from our own perspective as a department, on exceptional experimental work that would have to be undertaken under highly-controlled conditions," she told a media briefing at Parliament.

The department had said so in recent written inputs to the inter-departmental task team, set up just over a year ago by Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu to investigate fracking.

Ngcaba said these would now have to be considered by Shabangu, and the various options examined before her team finalised a report for Cabinet.

There would have to be a "clear understanding" of the technologies that would be used to extract the shale gas.

She said her department's inputs had noted, in particular, "the avoidance of the contamination of fresh water resources" in the Karoo region.

Further, there should be understanding that carrying out fracking operations "would require an enormous amount of water", and that the Karoo was dry.

Fracking involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure down a borehole into the rock strata containing the shale gas.

The process releases the gas, which flows out of the borehole to the surface, where it is captured and contained.

Square Kilometre Array

Ngcaba said environmental affairs had also raised concerns in its inputs about the use of shale gas, a fossil fuel, and the impact of doing so on South Africa's greenhouse gas emissions profile.

It had also noted that fracking could have an impact in the area set aside for construction of the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.

Speaking at the briefing, Environment and Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said Shabangu was expected to table her team's report on fracking to Cabinet.

She also said further discussion was needed on water matters before this could be done.

"We obviously would need to just jointly do a bit of work in that regard."

Molewa told journalists Shabangu was "not withholding the report, but just finalising a few things that need to be looked at".

Earlier this year, Shabangu said the report would go to Cabinet on March 31.

In that month, business consultancy Econometrix said in a report that if the amount of shale gas - lying about 4 000 to 5 000m below the Karoo surface - was confirmed, it could provide the equivalent of 400 years’ worth of energy consumption in South Africa.

It called for the government to get moving on exploring the potential of its suspected shale gas fields.

Mighty big fish

"This is big stuff in terms of contribution to GDP, in terms of employment potential. Even if the gas finds turn out to be a lot smaller than the estimate... we are talking about a mighty big fish," Econometrix economist Tony Twine said at the time.

The Karoo shale gas was currently only a "suspected resource" of about 485 trillion cubic feet.

If this was correct - and using a projection model of four percent of the estimated resource - there could be, according to the report, an annual economic impact of more than R80bn to the country's GDP.

Several companies, including oil giant Shell, are seeking permission to explore for shale gas across tens of thousands of square kilometres of the Karoo.

Environmentalists, landowners and others are opposed to this, saying fracking could contaminate groundwater in the region.

The fierce debate prompted Shabangu to last year declare a moratorium on fracking until her team had completed its investigations.

Wednesday's media briefing comes ahead of debate in the National Assembly later in the day on environmental affairs' 2012/13 budget.

Read more on:    shell  |  edna molewa  |  susan shabangu  |  environment  |  fracking

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
31 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.