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.

  • James - 2012-05-02 23:29

    I wonder which politicians will be benefiting from this controlled Fracking!

      Eduard - 2012-05-03 02:46

      I just wondering what do the politicians know about business in general and especially this fracking process. They have no idea about the impact on the karoo and the water it needs for the process. SA is already in a pickle when it comes to water.....

      Piet - 2012-05-03 06:44

      Merrit = kickbacks

      Preshen - 2012-05-03 07:40

      You have you make money it’s the recession

      Squeegee - 2012-05-03 09:39

      All we need is more trucks on the N1.

  • mnbain - 2012-05-02 23:54

    Moratorium until such time as sufficient bribes have been tendered...

  • Phae - 2012-05-03 00:14

    NO!! Under no circumstances! What is the point of this project if not to find a reason to continue. This is sanctioned planetary destruction. If we are to perform our custodial duties in preserving our planet, this is without a doubt the time for those of us that understand the dire consequences, to stop this before it starts!!! Absolutely NOT.

  • Press - 2012-05-03 00:48

    Yip - fracking to be allowed by the same Department that approved the Gautrain to be built through a dolomitic aquifer and through residential suburbs with no sound mitigation in place - why should we really really trust you ? Would not be surprised if there are other environmnetal clangers that can be ascribed to this Department who should be looking after our environment . . . Medupi for one comes to mind . . .

  • Steven - 2012-05-03 01:13


  • George - 2012-05-03 01:32

    I thought fracking was already happening in the ranks of the ANC. Producing remarkable results by all accounts!

  • Colin - 2012-05-03 03:50

    "Environmentalists, landowners and others are opposed to this, saying fracking could contaminate groundwater in the region." No 'could' about it. Fracking will without doubt contaminate the ground water. They're starting to do it in Queensland, Oz, laying waste to thousands of square kms of farmland, as well as everywhere else that uses the groundwater. You don't have to be a greeny to realise this is a really bad idea. Forget what the 'doublespeakers' tell you, watch Gasland and see for yourself. They frack in the Karoo, Capetowns' water will be brown within 6 months.

      zaatheist - 2012-05-03 04:07

      "It does seem there is merit, from our own perspective as a department." So seems to be is evidence. Say no to fracking.

      Craig - 2012-05-03 07:35

      What an alarmist comment. "Laying waste" how? How does the groundwater get contaminated by something 3 km underground when the gas takes hundreds of thousands of years to move up from those depths? There has not been one proven instance of groundwater being contaminated by fracking in 60 years of its application. Gasland is a lying piece of propaganda as even the producer acknowledges. How will activities 3km under the Karoo make Cape Town's water brown, ever? You are a poorly informed alarmist prepared to deny South Africans the benefits of cheap, ubiquitous energy. Why do you hate your countrymen so?

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-05-03 08:38

      @Craig. It works the same than your intestines. If windy it can go anywhere. Up or down, but mostly stuck. When you eat you put pressure on it and it goes out. You must hope your "bowl" is clean to prevent dirty underpants. The difference is that your "channel", for "relief", do not have "cracks".(that will take it side ways or where ever) Next time when you "answer nature" think of it. I am with zaatheist on this. Say no!

  • Anthony - 2012-05-03 04:48

    We should concentrate our resources on green energies instead. We cannot trust business to protect the environment. Take a look at at the problems the USA has in cleaning up the vast quantities of water used in fracking operations:

  • Gieljam - 2012-05-03 06:33

    There is "merit" in most things but in this case money in fat cat pockets( at the expense of the environment) will be the biggest one ...

  • Gert - 2012-05-03 06:59

    "She said her department's inputs had noted, in particular, "the avoidance of the contamination of fresh water resources" in the Karoo region" So there she said it herself---How do you know standing on the surface what is going on with the structure of the crust below as to be able to say the fresh water resources will NOT BE CONTAMINATED....???? KINDERS MOET NIE IN DIE WATER MORS NIE DIE OU MENSE WIL DIT DRINK.....!!!!!! So somebody "convinced" her the usual way..... to just try it a l..iiiii..ttt...ll..e bit and then they will see. Did she neglect to go on an extensive world tour to study the effects in other countries?---I doubt it- So now she is willing to contaminate not just the water but the night sky also for the sky telescopes and she will tamper with nature and sensitive fauna and flora and provide work for only 1000 South Africans for ONLY 8 YEARS and she is willing to scrap the Karoo as a Quite remote tourist haven that will give work to thousands for generations to come. If we (the concerned public) are to give her dept. a R100 mil. to look at alternative energy will she reconsider????? I am sure she won't accept that amount for herself because then it will be BRIBERY AND A VERY, VERY SERIOUS CRIME, AND SHE KNOWS THAT--DOESN'T SHE? Maybe they can go and do fracking on her farms next to her front door and have heavy vehicles for 8 years kicking up dust and driving over her farm animals and making noise.But why should they worry about SA let the next gen. suffer.

  • Martin - 2012-05-03 07:26

    by merit they mean profit...i wish cancer and aids on the anc,

  • Jeremy - 2012-05-03 07:33

    He says it "seems"... It means he has been "lead to believe" - I have no faith in him, he does not sound qualified to make such a statement.

  • naude.andrea - 2012-05-03 07:33

    NO NO NO with all the chaos spewed into the environment by fracking all over the world they still allow investigations etc to go on. This just show the incompetence and ignorance (or shall we say arrogance and stupidity) by the government. How on earth can we stop them?

  • Michael - 2012-05-03 07:51

    Well, the E-tolling system seems to be going t1ts up, so the sudden rush to start generating bribes(i mean gas)comes as no surprise. I wonder how much of the cash is going into these "very concerned about SA" ministers pockets

  • Robdbn - 2012-05-03 07:59


  • Schmee - 2012-05-03 08:00

    I guess there is less money in watching the stars and getting clean water to drink than there is in getting oil out the ground. So money talks and commonsense walks right out the door.

  • revaro.winkler - 2012-05-03 08:36

    just do it we gonna make it work but the problem is hiw is the natives gonna benefit ?????

  • cronje.fourie - 2012-05-03 09:03

    There is no merrit in any form of fracking! Clearly someone is getting a back-hand deal.

  • mark.halbert - 2012-05-03 09:11

    South Africa should become a world leader in Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology and forget about this very destructive fracking technology.

      Craig - 2012-05-03 09:45

      How will South Africa generate the power needed to create the hydrogen in the first place? They will have to burn something or install nuclear. The NG residing 3km under the Karoo could generate that power cleanly and cheaply. Furthermore the gas can be converted to liquid fuels to power vehicles using existing South African technology. In the USA gas prices have fallen to a sixth of what they were two years ago thanks to the new horizontal drilling technology coupled with the 60 year old fracking technology. Yes that was the innovation , horizontal drilling at great depth.

      mark.halbert - 2012-05-03 10:18

      Hi Craig, Another thing we have in absolute abundance in SA is sunshine so we can use solar technology to create the hydrogen. Google Solar Hydrogen Technology for details.

  • John - 2012-05-03 09:39

    Just see the speech by Lewis Pugh (human polar bear) at a public hearing in Cape Town into proposed fracking for gas by Shell in the Karoo. Standing up to Goliath. Some shocking facts indeed.

  • Matthew - 2012-05-03 10:44

    The Americans have been fracking since the 60's and they are STILL having major problems. Let's not even go down this road!

  • ludlowdj - 2012-05-03 12:33

    "the avoidance of the contamination of fresh water resources" My understanding is that no matter how it is done the contamination of the ground water is guaranteed. Any fluid will find its way into the water table and contaminate the fresh water available.

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