Frack­ing raises many ques­tions

Vuk'uzenzele - - General - Stephen Timm

ar­guably the most com­monly mis­un­der­stood is­sue when it comes to shale gas ex­plo­ration is that frack­ing will sig­nif­i­cantly con­tam­i­nate the ground wa­ter re­sources of the Ka­roo re­gion.

PETROSA man­ager of li­cens­ing and le­gal com­pli­ance Te­bogo Mot­loung how­ever says shale gas is found be­tween 1 500 m to 4 000 m be­low ground sur­face, which is far deeper than where ac­cept­able drink­ing wa­ter is lo­cated.

“The like­li­hood of con­tam­i­na­tion is sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced due to the lo­ca­tion of tar­get for­ma­tion and elim­i­nated by the man­ner in which wells are to be con­structed – i.e. cased in ce­ment to achieve the de­sired well in­tegrity.”

In ad­di­tion, he said, the tech­nol­ogy it­self al­lows for the use of multi-well pad drilling where a num­ber of wells are drilled in one well thus sig­nif­i­cantly re­duc­ing the ground that might be dam­aged in com­par­i­son with drilling ver­ti­cal wells.

What is hy­draulic frac­tur­ing?

“Hy­draulic frac­tur­ing”, gen­er­ally re­ferred to as “frack­ing”, in­volves in­ject­ing a mix­ture of wa­ter, chem­i­cals and sand at high pres­sure into the ground to al­low nat­u­ral gas to flow freely from the rock pores to pro­duc­tion wells.

What is shale gas?

Shale gas is nat­u­ral gas that is at­tached to, or ad­sorbed onto, or­ganic mat­ter or is con­tained in thin, por­ous silt or sand beds in­terbed­ded in shale.

Are hy­draulic frac­tur­ing flu­ids and flow-back not harm­ful to wa­ter re­sources?

Hy­draulic frac­tur­ing fluid is typ­i­cally made up of 99.5 per cent wa­ter and sand, and 0.5 per cent chem­i­cals. Most chem­i­cals are com­monly used in house­hold ap­pli­ca­tions. There has been a move by the in­dus­try to re­duce the use of po­ten­tial toxic ad­di­tives and re­place them with non-toxic al­ter­na­tives. The in­dus­try would be re­quired to dis­close ad­di­tives to the Reg­u­la­tor.

Will hy­draulic frac­tur­ing and shale-gas pro­duc­tion cause any at­mo­spheric pol­lu­tion?

Com­pared with other sources of en­ergy, nat­u­ral gas is con­sid­ered one of the clean­est en­ergy source. The draft reg­u­la­tions pro­hibit any vent­ing of nat­u­ral gas to the at­mos­phere and also re­quire op­er­a­tors to max­imise re­source re­cov­ery, thus pre­vent­ing any po­ten­tial im­pacts.

Will the process in­ter­fere with the ex­ist­ing land-use ac­tiv­i­ties and, if so, how will these be man­aged?

As part of the ap­pli­ca­tion for ex­plo­ration or pro­duc­tion rights, ap­pli­cants are re­quired to as­sess the im­pact of pro­posed op­er­a­tions on ex­ist­ing land use and con­sult with any af­fected landown­ers. Once op­er­a­tions are com­plete, the holder is re­quired to re­ha­bil­i­tate the site in such

a way that fu­ture land use in the area is not com­pro­mised.

How will roads and other ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture be af­fected?

A traf­fic im­pact as­sess­ment will be un­der­taken as part of the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment to de­ter­mine the ac­tual ef­fects of shale gas de­vel­op­ment and how such im­pacts can be mit­i­gated, in­clud­ing mak­ing pro­vi­sions for the main­te­nance of roads.

What ben­e­fits does hy­draulic frac­tur­ing pro­vide?

The ex­trac­tion of a mod­est es­ti­ma­tion of the Ka­roo’s 50 tril­lion cu­bic feet of shale gas will have a sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive im­pact on eco­nomic growth, the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of the en­ergy mix, em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and other ben­e­fits from mul­ti­plier ac­tiv­i­ties such as man­u­fac­tur­ing, skills de­vel­op­ment and trans­porta­tion.

Has gov­ern­ment pro­vided suf­fi­cient mech­a­nisms to pro­tect com­mu­ni­ties

and the en­vi­ron­ment?

The reg­u­la­tory frame­work has been bench­marked against well de­vel­oped and ma­tured ju­ris­dic­tions with over 50 years of ex­pe­ri­ence, and adapted to a South Africa-spe­cific en­vi­ron­ment. In terms of the law, com­pa­nies seek­ing ap­proval to de­velop shale gas are re­quired to un­der­take com­pre­hen­sive con­sul­ta­tions with in­ter­ested and af­fected par­ties, in­clud­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

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