Joburg fracking talks protest plan

2011-07-13 16:00

Pretoria - The environmental lobby group Climate Justice Campaign (CJC) plans to protest at next week's conference in Johannesburg on shale gas extraction, it said on Wednesday.

The conference was heavily skewed in favour of the industry with little representation from environmental groups, it claimed in a statement.

The Shale Gas South Africa conference is being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosebank from Monday until next Thursday.

It is understood that the process, benefits and risks associated with shale gas mining in South Africa will be on the agenda, and that Shell will make a presentation on its Karoo Project.

The speakers are thought to include SA Oil and Gas Alliance CEO Warwick Blyth, Shell Oil Products Africa chair Bonang Mohale, Standard Bank energy, utilities, and infrastructure head Paul Eardley-Taylor, and Breitling Oil and Gas, United States, CEO Chris Faulkner.

CJC was protesting at the conference to ensure there was an anti-fracking presence there and to voice the concerns of the public, CJC co-ordinator Marina Louw in a statement.

She said the public was largely being prohibited from attending the conference, because of the exorbitant attendance fees.

These were clearly aimed at limiting the conference to only industry and government.

Hydraulic fracturing

Shale gas fracking is the common term for hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping a pressurised mixture of water, sand and chemicals down drill holes to fracture shale and release natural gas.

Louw said the CJC supported the view of many environmental justice groups, that shale gas obtained through hydraulic fracturing was not a greener alternative or a bridging fuel to green technology.

"Shale gas is still a fossil fuel, with a [greenhouse gas] footprint as least as big as coal, with devastating effects on global warming especially in the short term, and delaying investment and development of renewable sources of energy with far greater public benefits," she said.

The conference will explore topics like "shale gas as middle ground between fossil fuel and green technology" and "the shale gas potential of the Karoo basin".

Louw criticised the fossil fuel industry lobbyists "aggressively" promoting shale gas to the government as an alternative South African energy source.

"Many of their claims are misleading propaganda and do not reflect the truth about gas drilling, using the technique of hydraulic fracturing or fracking"

Last week, the Advertising Standards Authority ordered Shell to withdraw "unsubstantiated" and "misleading" claims made in full-page advertisements in several newspapers, about its aim to use the controversial gas extraction technique in the Karoo.

The Treasure the Karoo Action Group brought the complaint against Shell and has vowed to stop all proposals to do fracking in the Karoo.

Shell said the advert was intended to make the public aware of the company's understanding.

Many people, including lobby groups are up in arms against shale gas fracking because of its likely impact on ground water supplies.

The process uses large quantities of water mixed with toxic chemicals.

The Cabinet has endorsed a decision by the department of mineral resources to impose a moratorium on all fracking applications.

  • str4f3 - 2011-07-13 17:08

    Their protests are not based on knowledge and fact, this 'green' zealousness twists facts. They aren't coming to the conference because they aren't scientists, hence they aren't backed by academic bodies and don't get a seat, If they were able to back and justify their claims the process would not have been allowed. Their quest to save our planet is admirable, but their rationality has been twisted by extremism. They fail to understand.

      MrGumede - 2011-07-13 17:14

      What a load of tripe. There is plenty of proof the world over that fracking has serious environmental impacts. If a conference is being held on fracking, both sides of the story need to be presented or else it becomes a one sided farce. Please get your facts straight before posting your one sided opinion and by the way, how much is Shell paying you?

      DW - 2011-07-13 17:23

      The frackers and their supporters have still not answered the most important question of all - where is the WATER coming from that is required for this exercise? We live in a country which is rapidly running out of available fresh water and you want to use if for an experiment? The day you can state that sea water is acceptable, I will look at fracking as an possible alternative. Until then, YOU are twisting or hiding the facts for the sake of the money you will make. PLEASE ANSWER THE QUESTION. WHERE IS THE HUGE AMOUNT OF WATER REQUIRED TO COME FROM?

  • Nick Grealy - 2011-07-13 18:46

    @DW: Where would that water come from? Excellent question. Hope you will accept the answer contained in a 900 page report issued on fracking last week by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as reported here The study said that a full scale (over 2,000 wells) implementation of shale gas extraction in New York State would lead to an increase of less than one quarter of one per cent. I realise the Karoo is far more arid, but I think the far lower population would make up for that. So I'm afraid the water issue looks as relevant in the Karoo as it does in Saudi, Oman, Tunisia, Western Australia and Queensland. On the subject of Climate Justice, what about human justice? A quarter of SA's population lives on less than 6 rand a day, yet gas could provide cheap power and no blackouts. If you worry about Climate, far better to look at the massive impact of coal and how natural gas has CO2 levels half that of coal. How many members of Climate Justice lose their lives each years in the SA coal industry? Not many I would guess.

      MrGumede - 2011-07-13 19:09

      Hi Nick. You seem to be well informed about the logistics of fracking. Could you tell us plainly what the potential environmental impacts are and how long the source of gas is likely to last against any possible negative environmental impact. Thanks.

  • Nick Grealy - 2011-07-15 09:16

    @Mr Gumede At there is a list of 10 myths about gas which answer most of your questions. I'll also refer you to the recent New York State study on shale which is both exhaustive in that it covers absolutely everything and is exhausting: it's 900 pages long. Consider that this is report from a Democratic administration, not from the industry. The summary here is a bit more digestible

  • AdaMaeCompton - 2011-07-15 22:01

    learn more about Shell's pollution of water in the US here: Note that this article states that Shell is liable for affecting the homeowner water, and they can light it on fire now. Also, Shell does NOT DENY this-- rather, they just call it "INCONVENIENT"... so, SA, better get ready for some inconvenience.

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