‘Fracking not viable for now’

2016-03-09 10:41
Demonstrators flooded the streets of Howick during the People's Climate March.

Demonstrators flooded the streets of Howick during the People's Climate March. (Amil Umraw, The Witness)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Pietermaritzburg - With fracking applications for KwaZulu-Natal already being received, researchers have said that fracking would not be viable in South Africa for another 20 to 30 years.

Last month, Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa announced its intention to explore 3,5 million hectares of land in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, affecting areas such as Ulundi, Melmoth, Pongola, Newcastle and Vryheid.

In addition, the company, which is also currently seeking rights to explore sites in the Free State and Eastern Cape, has lodged an application to explore two sites in Pietermaritzburg and its surrounds.

In total, the company is seeking rights to explore almost 7,4 million hectares in South Africa, of which more than half is in KZN.

A fracking seminar hosted by WWF-SA and the African Conservation Trust at Cedara Agricultural College yesterday saw environmental activists, community members and geologists band together against fracking in KZN.

WWF-SA unit head Saliem Fakir said Rhino was after shale gas in the main.

He said shale gas was considered an unconventional gas that had marginal resource capability, was extremely expensive and “difficult to make commercially viable”. “Shale gas extraction requires a vast amount of land to drill on. The gas is around two to three kilometres underground and stored in rocks that are impermeable, which makes it difficult to extract.

“With shale gas, you do not know how much you will get from a drilling event. You could frack 90 wells and only 10 of them might produce the amount of gas to get to the level of production you need to pay for it.”

Fakir said that to frack shale gas, one would need to apply technology mostly used in America, and which was costly.

“Operating costs are high, considering the equipment has to be imported and specialists are needed to operate them. There is also the exchange rate to factor in. It will be challenging.

“Although America has made fracking work, South Africa might only be able to cope in 20 to 30 years when technology improves and there is a viable gas market, but not now.”

WWF-SA researcher Tjasa Bole-Rentel said that besides not being viable, the exploration would be taxing on the environment, especially in KZN’s crippling drought.

“Shale extraction is very water intensive, with one fracking event using up to 20 million litres of water.”

She said that 1 000 chemicals were pumped into the water before it was injected into the ground, which could affect the human endocrine system, the sensory organs and could be carcinogenic.

Bole-Rentel said there was also water contamination to be wary of, if there was a leak or spill in the fracking event.

KZN Water and Sanitation Department compliance and monitoring deputy director Namisha Muthraparsad reassured those at the meeting yesterday that the department’s interests lay with the public.

She said South Africa was the 30th driest country in the world and water resources would be considered before any licences were granted.

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  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.

Inside News24

Financial advisors – Do you need one and should you get one?

The good, the bad, and everything else you need to know when considering hiring a financial advisor.


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

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


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.


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.