Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

SA farmers oppose Shell’s shale gas plans

Royal Dutch Shell is facing opposition to its plans to seek shale gas in South Africa’s semi-desert Karoo region, as farmers fear methods used to extract it will contaminate water and harm the environment.

The outcome of whether Shell is allowed to proceed could affect prospects for other oil and gas companies in the Karoo, which may hold substantial deposits of gas in shale.

This gas can now be exploited due to new techniques and could bring a much needed fresh source of energy to Africa’s largest economy, which is heavily reliant on coal.

Petrochemicals group Sasol, Anglo American, Falcon Oil and Gas, and Bundu Gas and Oil Exploration, are among those eyeing shale gas in the region.

Public concern focuses on the extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, in which drillers blast millions of litres of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure in underground rock formations to create cracks for gas and oil to escape easier.

Fracking not regulated
“We are very concerned about the environmental impact, especially because fracking is not regulated in South Africa,” Derek Light, a lawyer representing a number of Karoo land owners and interested parties told Reuters on Thursday.

He said farmers were worried about the sensitivity of the underground water systems upon which the Karoo is totally dependent, should contamination occur.

According to findings from a US Congressional probe released on Monday, several energy companies there may have violated environmental rules by injecting diesel into the ground without permits as part of the controversial drilling technique.

“We’ve got some serious concerns about fracking, it is as yet an unproven technology with unacceptable risks for fresh water abstraction and pollution,” said Mark Botha, head of conservation at environmental group WWF South Africa.

Oil major Shell, which has held public consultations as part of its environmental impact assessment, said in January it had applied to Petroleum Agency South Africa for exploration rights in the Karoo.

“Fracking is the best method to extract gas that is trapped in shale,” Phaldie Kalam, vice-president communications for Shell Africa told Reuters.

He said Shell noted the public’s concerns and would incorporate that into an environmental management plan currently under design, the final version to be handed in by end-April.

Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu on Tuesday placed an indefinite moratorium on the processing of all new exploration and production rights in the Karoo, although this would not affect those applications already in the pipeline. – Reuters

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Wendell Roelf
Wendell Roelf has over 48 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

South Africa’s mothballed ‘supermall-ification’ sets strip malls up for success

Analysts agree that the country has enough malls and that, post-Covid, the convenience of local centres lure customers

Mabuza’s Russian jaunts and the slippery consequences of medical tourism

For more than five years the deputy president has remained steadfast in his right to travel abroad to receive medical treatment

More top stories

South Africa’s mothballed ‘supermall-ification’ sets strip malls up for success

Analysts agree that the country has enough malls and that, post-Covid, the convenience of local centres lure customers

Ugandan teachers turn to coffin-making after schools close

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the country’s schools closing and teachers being left without jobs

Mabuza’s Russian jaunts and the slippery consequences of medical tourism

For more than five years the deputy president has remained steadfast in his right to travel abroad to receive medical treatment

A new book asks the timeless question: ‘Can We Be...

Ziyanda Stuurman’s new book critiques the South African police and their role in society
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×