Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Years
2017 2018 2019 2020
Previous Archive
News Items

News Archive

Fracking in the Karoo has advantages and disadvantages
2012-05-25

 

Dr Danie Vermeulen
Photo: Leatitia Pienaar
25 May 2012

Fracking for shale gas in the Karoo was laid bare during a public lecture by Dr Danie Vermeulen, Director of the Institute for Groundwater Studies (IGS). He shared facts, figures and research with his audience. No “yes” or “no” vote was cast. The audience was left to decide for itself.

The exploitation of shale gas in the pristine Karoo has probably been one of the most debated issues in South Africa since 2011.
 
Dr Vermeulen’s lecture, “The shale gas story in the Karoo: both sides of the coin”, was the first in a series presented by the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Science under the theme “Sustainability”. Dr Vermeulen is a trained geo-hydrologist and geologist. He has been involved in fracking in South Africa since the debate started. He went on a study tour to the USA in 2011 to learn more about fracking and he visited the USA to further his investigation in May 2012.
 
Some of the information he shared, includes:

- It is estimated that South Africa has the fifth-largest shale-gas reserves in the world, following on China, the USA, Argentina and Mexico.
- Flow-back water is stored in sealed tanks and not in flow-back dams.
- Fracturing will not contaminate the water in an area, as the drilling of the wells will go far deeper than the groundwater aquifers. Every well has four steel casings – one within the other – with the gaps between them sealed with cement.
- More than a million hydraulic fracturing simulations took place in the USA without compromising fresh groundwater. The surface activities can cause problems because that is where man-made and managerial operations could cause pollution.
- Water use for shale-gas exploration is lower than for other kinds of energy, but the fact that the Karoo is an arid region makes the use of groundwater a sensitive issue. Dr Vermeulen highlighted this aspect as his major concern regarding shale-gas exploration.
- The cost to develop is a quarter of the cost for an oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Dolerite intrusions in the Karoo are an unresearched concern. Dolerite is unique to the South African situation. Dolerite intrusion temperatures exceed 900 °C.

He also addressed the shale-gas footprint, well decommissioning and site reclamation, radio activity in the shale and the low possibility of seismic events.
 
Dr Vermeulen said South Africa is a net importer of energy. About 90% of its power supply is coal-based. For continued economic growth, South Africa needs a stable energy supply. It is also forecast that energy demand in South Africa is growing faster than the average global demand.
 
Unknowns to be addressed in research and exploration are the gas reserves and gas needs of South Africa. Do we have enough water? What will be the visual and social impact? Who must do the exploration?
 
“Only exploration will give us these answers,” Dr Vermeulen said.

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept