Shell is creating the wrong impression by saying shale gas mining is good for South Africa, the Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) said on Tuesday.
“It is incredible that despite the clear reservations [based on environmental concerns] voiced by Cabinet recently, Shell continues to tour the country touting shale gas mining as something beneficial and good for South Africa,” Jonathan Deal, coordinator of the group lobbying against drilling for gas in the Karoo, said in a statement.
He was reacting to an article in the Business Report on Tuesday quoting Shell spokesperson Fred Palmer as saying Shell had considerable experience in gas fracturing — a technique for extracting shale gas from deep underground — without significant damage to the environment.
Shale gas is natural gas trapped in sedimentary rock.
Deal said it was “false of Shell to create the impression that fracking can be done without significant environmental damage”.
He referred to an incident in the US in which Chesapeake Energy “lost control of a fracking well in Bradford County, Pennsylvania”.
This allegedly led to “thousands of gallons of fracking fluid spilling into the Susquehanna River watershed from the Chesapeake accident”.
“… this latest incident at the hands of a company possessed of the very latest equipment and expertise showed clearly that accidents could happen, and that those accidents can have dramatic consequences that cannot be reversed by paying a fine or offering an apology.”
‘Where would the work be?’
Deal said it was “indicative to us of Shell’s untruthful approach that Palmer chooses to ignore the very recent incident of pollution in Pennsylvania”.
Shell issued a statement later on Tuesday saying it “remains committed to its proposed shale gas exploration project in the Karoo”.
“We would also welcome the opportunity to contribute towards South Africa’s understanding of the shale gas potential and the technology utilised to develop the resource,” said Shell South Africa’s country chairperson Bonang Mohale.
The Business Report article suggested Shell might consider using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to extract shale gas in the Karoo.
“Shell would still be drilling through the water aquifers of the Karoo, still be injecting gas and still be fracturing rock formations underground, and still be causing enormous environmental damage at ground level on farms, and to the infrastructure of towns and roads.” Deal said.
He said Shell’s promise to create jobs through fracking painted a “false picture”.
“If one can come in and create a lot of sustainable new jobs without costing those who are already employed, their jobs — it would be great. However, the jobs that Shell would offer are expected to be for truck drivers for the hundreds of large trucks full of hazardous material — hardly a job for which the employed persons on Karoo farms would qualify.
“And after the gas was finished and farming unable to resume — where would the work be then?”
‘Global best practices’
Last week, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu halted all applications for licences to prospect for shale gas in the Karoo using the fracking method.
Until the conclusion of a feasibility study, no new applications would be accepted, nor would existing ones be finalised.
Cabinet endorsed the department’s decision to place a moratorium on licences. Shell was among those applying for exploration rights.
“We have heard from Shell for months about how great fracking is for South Africa — it would perhaps be prudent of them to now silence their propaganda machine in respect for Cabinet’s decision and await the findings of an expert team who will expose to this country exactly what fracking is all about,” Deal said.
Shell’s Mohale said: “We look forward to engaging the department of mineral resources to better understand the impact the moratorium will have on our existing licence applications and to learn more about the study that has been initiated.”
The company “reiterated its commitment to lead in setting of global best practices and operational standards for shale gas development in South Africa”. — Sapa