WWF slams 'ethical' fracking

2012-09-10 13:01

Cape Town - Ethical extraction of shale gas leaves many questions around the process of hydraulic fracturing or fracking unanswered, an environmental activist organisation has said.

The government lifted the moratorium on fracking in the Karoo on Friday and major oil and gas firm Shell is set to begin the exploration of shale gas within about two years.

"WWF has from the outset of these discussions around shale gas, made it very clear that we have major concerns over the carbon intensity of shale gas extraction," Dr Morné du Plessis CEO of WWF South Africa told News24.

Shell told News24 that the company was committed to ethical fracking practices as it has a long history of business in SA and was concerned about its reputation.

"Don't forget that we are not a fly-by-night. We have been in this country for 110 years as a company so we have a reputation that we have to protect here which obviously we don't want to damage," Jan Willem Egginck, Upstream (Exploration) Shell South Africa told News24.

Harmful impact

According to the WWF, though, there were many questions around the feasibility of the extraction process that included flow back of the gas.

Flow back is the process where the fluids used in the process are allowed to flow out of the wells and captured after treatment.

"If any gas company says that it will extract shale gas in an ethical manner, WWF would want to know whether they can show us any examples where the flow back that happens" results in no damage to the environment, said Du Plessis.

According the WWF, the average methane loss amounts to 1.6% of the total resource and this had a harmful impact on the environment.

"This is not entering into the mindset or equation of any gas company at the moment because they don't calculate that as part of the carbon footprint," Du Plessis said.

Shell has said that most of the reports of water pollution from the fracking process were related to unscrupulous operators that didn't not seal the gas wells properly or did not drill down deep enough to reach the shale.

Typically, gas wells should be sealed with cement at regular intervals in the drilling process and pressure tested to ensure the well's integrity.


Water is usually found at a few hundred metres down, whereas shale is far deeper, at around 2km in depth.

Oil companies are eager to present themselves well in the mainstream media and have indicated that shale gas is the ideal alternative energy source while renewable energy improves in technology to be able to deliver high capacities needed for industry.

"The renewable are not yet there. I passed the big Volkswagen and General Motors plant: These plants can't run on renewable energy yet; you need actually a lot of supply," said Egginck.

Du Plessis rejected this argument and warned that the debate would rage for some time.

"We feel a little bit bullied by the big gas companies that put their big propaganda machinery in place and it's very easy to ignore some of the facts that counter some of these glib statements."

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  • paul.maarman - 2012-09-10 13:18

    "'ethical' fracking"...nice one Shell...sounds a bit like "legitimate rape" one just have to look at Nigeria to see how you go about your business....

      christopher.shining - 2012-09-10 13:24

      we know what Jan Willem Egginck looks like, lets make his life a living hell if this goes through, and his family...

      komorison - 2012-09-10 13:39

      Why am I not surprised, oil cartels always get their way. Go an have a look how the they have messed up the Niger delta. There is no fracking ethical fracking! As someone else said "legitimate" rape. Anything to satisfy the greed for money.

      tuco.angeleyes - 2012-09-10 15:45

      I suppose Shell considers what they are doing in the Niger Delta 'ethical' in their books. Our govt and shell should go frack themselves. Whose getting paid under the table for this blatant thievery and destruction of our beautiful country?

      trudy.cashel - 2012-09-12 15:47

      It's true that the Niger delta is not the poster child for the energy companies but it's wrong not to also point a finger at the Nigerian government for failing to distribute the wealth equitably which would stem the frequent vandalism of the pipelines. Aside from catastrophic but thankfully rare events like the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Mexican gulf, Shell and the likes incur much reputational damage by operating in countries where governance is less than excellent.

  • seath1 - 2012-09-10 13:30

    Boycott all Shell Products !!!

      BobM6389 - 2012-09-10 14:15

      Mark1 I will not be buying Shell products from now on, you have my full support. All of South Africa should boycott Shell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • stirrer.stirrer - 2012-09-10 13:48

    Shell, go frack yourself ethically.

  • jennifer.d.martin.750 - 2012-09-10 13:52

    No more Shell

  • cliff.slabbert - 2012-09-10 13:56

    "ethical fracking" what a joke!

  • almeleh - 2012-09-10 13:57

    Tell all this to millions of jobless people

      BobM6389 - 2012-09-10 14:21

      almeleh How many of the millions of jobless will get employment in this HIGH Tect industry?? Not very many I bet.

      sam.goldberg.988 - 2012-09-10 16:26

      Yeah, the people of the Niger delta are all reaping the benefits of Shell's drilling… no, wait, that's Shell's shareholders I'm thinking of, sorry.

      howard.sheard.7 - 2012-09-11 14:11

      And those that will lose their jobs on the farms that will be barren due to the water being contaminated and dust covering on plants which sheep will not touch. After a few years Shell go (gas finished) then what, rather develop jobs in the Karoo via factories making solar panels or wind turbines rather. We have to think renewable not fossil or we will all be extinct.

  • sagin.verity - 2012-09-10 14:10

    We have no power when our leaders are so corrupt. Shell Just splashes some money on these black snakes and they can do what they like. South africa is as ruined as the rest of dark africa. I would like to see one example of black rule being successful.

  • wouldntit.benice.1 - 2012-09-10 15:48

    The ANC will bend over for anyone with enough money.

      dewalds3 - 2012-09-10 16:11

      Not really - they will bend YOU and ME over and hold us down to the highest bidder.

  • andrew.arnesen - 2012-09-11 06:57

    They are not a "fly-by-night company" - is that trying to remind us of their muscle? Or does that mean that we must forget their shocking history of environmental abuse pretty much everywhere that they have operated? And, must we somehow believe that damaging the environment for centuries is justified in providing jobs for some 20 000 people for around 15 years? What about the reports coming from the US where they have demonstrated that fracking causes all sorts of health problems due to the water table being contaminated? Must we ignore our instincts that say we should protect and conserve our wilderness over their promises of cheap energy? Energy that has already been shown to be unsustainable and simply pillage of the land for the enrichment of the few? I think not. Frack off Shell!

      howard.sheard.7 - 2012-09-11 14:19

      I agree with you 100%. If (sorry when)the water is contaminated and farming no longer an option 77000 jobs will be lost on the farms that are in the area proclaimed by these companies. Tourism will die and all those in the tourist industry will lose jobs in Graaff-Reinet that is most other than the dog food factory (who get Ostrich fat from the nearby abattoir that may also close as ostrich farming along with other farming shuts down. This seem such an illogical decision that bribery has to be involved somewhere or someone is just not thinking.

  • trudy.cashel - 2012-09-12 15:23

    Isn't the slaughter of the region's wildlife, especially the rhino, something WWF should be working really hard on? There are more than enough activists involved in the energy debate but not enough real action being taken to stem the slaughter of the wildlife. Or is that not the political remit of WWF (World Wildlife Fund)?

  • trudy.cashel - 2012-09-12 16:29

    Wow the power of propaganda. The movie Gasland achieved much for the extreme environmental lobby. People owe it to themselves and their children to watch the counter to Gasland.

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