Sasol shelves fracking plans: The decision by Sasol not to pursue hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Karoo has been a welcome one in the fight against this dirty and unsafe practice.
This is a continuing and pressing problem of international importance. It has the potential of jeopardizing our waterways, as part of the process includes injecting toxic chemicals into shale to extract natural gas trapped deep within the ground. This process is now being challenged around the world.
The Treasure Karoo Action Group defines fracking as follows:
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the controversial technology used for the extraction of unconventional gas, such as shale gas. The technique involves a vertical well that is drilled to a depth of between 2000 m and 6000 m, after which the drilling bore turns to drill horizontally for a few thousand meters. A mixture of 99%-99.5% water and sand, along with 0.5% – 1% chemicals are pumped under high pressure into the well. This process fractures the shale rock layer, releasing the gas trapped between rock particles.
This sounds reasonable enough, especially considering our insatiable appetite for energy to sustain our modern consumer driven lifestyles. Lets pause though for a minute and consider the following facts:
- 1 well uses 20 million liters of water (in the Karoo?)
- mixed with millions of liters of chemicals
- 1 well requires 2500 trucks
- there are 32 wells on a pad
- there are 10 pads in a development site
- there will be many sites in South Africa
- 52% of Karoo viable for fracking
- this is 20& of South Africa
If we consider the facts above, then it is a sobering thought that we are even considering this. Each well will have thousands of liters of chemicals pumped in, risking ground and surface water contamination, as well as increased CO2 in the atmosphere from the further use of fossil fuel gasses.
France has outright banned this as far too unsafe for their environment and people. There have been minor earthquakes or tremors in the United Kingdom that have been attributed to this practice and resulting in a moratorium on fracking. Ireland and Australia have also imposed a moratorium on fracking, and there is growing aversion in America where a number of cities have banned it.
In South Africa, the moratorium imposed by government expires in February 2012. While it is a victory that Sasol shelves fracking plans, this does not mean other companies will not be vying for the rights. In the meantime, applications have been accepted by government for prospecting in the Karoo, Drakensberg, West Coast and other areas.
The decision that Sasol shelves fracking plans is a small victory, however we need to keep vigilant for any future developments. For more detailed information visit the Treasure Karoo Action Group and add your voice.