Hydraulic fracking in the Karoo, South Africa


Description

Various oil and gas companies (such as Shell, Bundu, Falcon, Anglo) have applied for licenses to explore for shale gas in the Greater Karoo Basin (spanning from the Western Cape to KZN), with the intention of producing natural gas using the controversial method of horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Local farming communities (and South African citizens at large) are concerned about the possible water and air contamination, surface disruption, threats to existing economies (agriculture, tourism) and human and animal health. The carbon footprint of shale gas development and its contribution to climate change is also a concern. It is a contentious issue because shale gas is competing with viable alternatives for energy production, using renewable technologies such as solar and wind, which are possible in the area.

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Basic Data
NameHydraulic fracking in the Karoo, South Africa
CountrySouth Africa
ProvinceWestern Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape
SiteGreater Karoo Basin
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Shale gas fracking
Specific CommoditiesNatural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe International Energy Agency claims that there are 485 trillion cubic feet of shale gas beneath the surface in South Africa. This may be a wild overestimate, but has acted as a stimulus to certain oil companies to apply for exploration rights.

The amount of technically recoverable gas is not yet known. However, vast quantities of fresh water are needed in hydraulic fracturing operations (about 20 million litres per fracture per well), in an area that is very arid and already water constrained.

Royal Dutch Shell (allocated exploration area 90,000 square kilometres); Falcon Oil and Gas(30,000 square kilometres); Bundu Gas and Oil (3,100 square kilometres); Anglo Coal; joint application by Sasol, Statoil and Chesapeake Energy (88,000 square kilometres). (Sasol withdrew their application in Nov 2011).
Project Area (in hectares)29,000,000
Level of Investment (in USD)200 million (Shells potential investment alone)
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population40,000,000
Start Date12/2010
Company Names or State EnterprisesRoyal Dutch Shell (RDS) from Netherlands
Falcon Oil and Gas
Bundu Gas and Oil from Australia
Anglo American from United Kingdom
Statoil from Norway
Chesapeake Energy
Sasol from South Africa
Relevant government actorsDepartment of Mineral Affairs , Department of Energy, Department of Water Affairs, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Health, Department of Tourism, Provincial government, District and local municipalities, PASA , Department of Mineral Affairs
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersDerek Light (attorney based in Graaff-Reinet, representing over 300 landowners and communities), TKAG (Treasure the Karoo Action Group; Jonathan Deal), Fractual (Ian Perrin), Earthlife Africa (Muna Lakhani), WWF (Saliem Fakir), WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of SA), CJN!SA network, Centre for Environmental Rights, Western Cape Wildlife and Environment Society, Southern Cape Land Committee, Agri-SA (commercial farmers lobby)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Social Media (facebook, twitter)
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
OtherThe above environmental imapcts have been documented in areas where hydraulic fracturing is currently being used.
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Other environmental related diseases
OtherHuman and animal health impacts from exposure to known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, VOCs, and other undisclosed chemicals.
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherSocio-economic impacts listed above have been documented in affected communities in the USA during a shale gas boom.
Outcome
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Moratoria
Development of AlternativesProposals for shale gas development using hydraulic fracturing, directly compete with the possibility of renewable technologies in the Karoo, which is eminently suited for wind and solar energy generation, and which could also create many local jobs.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The applications to explore for shale gas in the Karoo were placed under a

temporary moratorium endorsed by Cabinet in April 2011. This moratorium

was renewed for a further six months in Sept 2011. In Feb 2012 the

moratorium was extended again, with a decision expected in July 2012.

http://www.businesslive.co.za/southafrica/2012/03/13/cabinet-to-get-fracking-report-soon-shabangu

http://www.businesslive.co.za/southafrica/sa_markets/2012/05/10/cabinet-to-get-fracking-report-in-july
Sources and Materials
Legislations

National Environmental Management Act
[click to view]

Integrated Resource Plan 2010 documentation
[click to view]

WHITE PAPER

ON RENEWABLE ENERGY
[click to view]

NATIONAL NUCLEAR

REGULATOR ACT
[click to view]

References

WWF Position paper on Fracking:
[click to view]

WWF Response to Econometrix study:
[click to view]

Dr Chris Hartnadys presentation at Cape Town shale gas conference:
[click to view]

Fig, D. 2010. Nuclear Power Rethink? The Rise and Demise of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor. Pretoria: Institute of Strategic Studies.

Greenpeace Africa. 2011. The True Cost of Nuclear Energy in South Africa. Johannesburg: Greenpeace.

Hallowes D. 2011. Toxic futures. Pietermaritzburg: UKZN Press.

Teaching Screens. 2008. Uranium Road (54-minute documentary).

Fig, D. 2007. Uranium Road: Questioning South Africas Nuclear Direction. Johannesburg: Jacana.

Royal Dutch Shell - A Critical Review of the Application for a Karoo Gas Exploration Right
[click to view]

Response to Golder's Draft Environmental Management Plan South Western Karoo Basin Gas Exploration CENTRAL PRECINCT Shell Exploration Company B.V. - PASA Reference Number 12/3/220 April 2011
[click to view]

Links

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Media Links

Fracking protests
[click to view]

Photos: STOP FRACKING IN THE KAROO
[click to view]

Unearthed the documentary
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorMarina Louw, Jolynn Minnaar
Last update11/02/2015
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