TO FRACK OR NOT TO FRACK?
 
Submitted by David Still, Chair of the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust, writing in his personal capacity
 
This article was published in the Witness on Tuesday, 3 November 2015 alongside a report on the (stormy) public consultation meeting which had taken place at Ashburton on the previous day.
 
This week a number of meetings are being held around the Midlands to inform interested members of the public about the proposal by Rhino Oil and Gas to commence exploration for shale gas in the Midlands. If the exploration indicates that there are significant shale gas reserves in this region, then there will be subsequent applications for permission to exploit this gas using the hydraulic fracturing technique, known commonly as fracking.
 
For most of us resident in KZN the debate regarding whether or not to frack the Karoo has been something we were aware of, but regarding which we did not necessarily see the need to develop an informed opinion. What most of us may not have been aware of is that “Karoo” type shale extends over much of South Africa and is in fact just as much beneath our feet here in the Midlands as it is in the Karoo itself. So, with the announcement of Rhino Oil and Gas’ intention to carry out exploration the issue is now literally in our back yard, and perhaps even in our front yard.
 
Advocates of fracking make several compelling arguments to exploit shale gas. We are told that even by conservative estimates fracking will boost South Africa’s GDP by 3.3% per annum for over 25 years, will increase tax revenue by R35 billion per annum and will create 300 000 new full time jobs. That’s assuming there is 570 billion cubic metres of exploitable gas – but it could be much more, and it could be much less – no one actually knows whether there is much gas in our shale, which is why exploration is needed (that’s assuming you are open to fracking as an option). Industry advocates go on to point out that the burning of shale gas produces half the greenhouse gas per unit of energy produced compared with coal, so environmentalists should welcome it. Then South Africa will reduce its dependency on oil imports, and the rand will strengthen. And they say that while there is a risk of environmental contamination from fracking, the evidence to date indicates that the risk is very small and not out of proportion with any comparable economic activity.
 
Given this rosy picture, what’s possibly not to like? Environmentalists have a reputation for being opposed to all development, so if they are against fracking isn’t that just to be expected?
 
Last year I and three of my DUCT colleagues attended a two day seminar on fracking at the CSIR in Pretoria. It brought together experts from industry and environmental organisations, who gave us very well prepared presentations outlining all sides of the debate. I went up to Pretoria agnostic about fracking, but came back convinced that we should not rush into shale gas development. We may yet go that route, but there are a number of matters that should give us pause for thought.
 
Firstly whether or not fracking will pose a significant risk to our water resources (and from my own research I am not convinced that it will or won’t) there is absolutely no question that it will have a huge impact on our transport networks. To frack just one well typically requires one or two thousand large truck loads of water, which means thousands of wells will require millions of truck loads of water. It is debatable whether or not we have that water to spare (the current drought
highlights just how stretched our water resources are), but if those responsible for the management of our water resources simply continue to ignore the provision in the Water Act of 1998 for an environmental reserve flow to be maintained in our rivers, then I suppose the water can be found (to the detriment of river health). Then if a well is successful many thousands more truck loads of gas will be trundled out of the well fields on the way to wherever the gas will be used. With all the water trucked in and all the gas trucked out, it is debatable whether the carbon footprint of shale gas is as environmentally friendly as its advocates make out. So for those who wonder how on earth we will survive on our roads (particularly the N3) if the number of heavy vehicles continues to grow as fast as it has been growing, you ain’t seen nothing yet. And when the gas has all been tapped out after five or ten years (that’s how long a shale gas well lasts – not very long for all the trouble) and the roads are trashed, who I wonder will be paying to fix them up again?
 
Secondly, as a nation we are just not doing very well when it comes to the management of waste, regulation of mining and control of pollution. We simply do not have the capacity or the will at local and national government level to do the basics, like collecting solid waste, preventing dumping, closing down illegal mining operations (taking place in broad daylight) and controlling sewage and industrial pollution. The successful regulation of fracking would require major resources, skills and political will which we presently do not have. Before we countenance fracking, we should be sending a selection of our best and brightest young hydrogeologists to work in countries where fracking is taking place to gain experience in the industry and in particular in the government agencies which regulate the industry.
 
Thirdly, if it is there, the gas is not going anywhere. Although the price of oil has come down drastically in the past two years, in the long term it can only go up because the world’s reserves of fossil fuels are finite. While we could certainly use an economic boost right now, our children or our children’s children will very likely need it more than us. Why not spend the next twenty or thirty years learning everything we can about the shale gas industry from countries where it is properly managed, establishing once and for all if the environmental risks can be adequately contained. By then probably the price of gas will have gone way up and if we really must use it then we should be able to afford to exploit it in a more environmentally responsible manner.
 
There is no good reason for us to rush to exploit shale gas, whether it is there or not. Our neighbour Mocambique has huge gas reserves and is able to exploit them without fracking anything. We should buy gas from Mocambique and support their industry, for as our neighbours in the region their prosperity grows our prosperity.
 
Meanwhile, concerned citizens in the Midlands, particularly landowners, should take a keen interest in the exploration process, and should keep Rhino Oil and Gas under close scrutiny.
 
Public Meetings:
 
2 November 9.30am Ashburton Hall;
2 November 2.30pm Richmond Agricultural Hall;
3 November 2.30pm Lion’s River Club;
4 November 2.30pm Mooi River Country Club;
5 November 9.30am New Hanover Hall;
5 November 2.30pm at Greytown Lodge conference hall (Voortrekker Street)
 

 

THE Duzi uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) has called on businesses in the Camps Drift vicinity to help the organisation keep the Msunduzi river clean and improve the appearance of the area. Duct has...

The river life that was affected by last August’s massive vegetable oil and caustic acid spill is recovering well, with invertebrates, amphibians and fish re-populating the river.   Hundreds of thou...

Rush to clean the Duzi

With the Dusi Canoe Marathon just five days away, the raw sewage spills into the Msunduzi River are at an all-time high, causing a serious hazard to hundreds of paddlers’ health. The famous three-day...

Expert highlights Duzi pollution levels

Expert highlights Duzi pollution levels Environment activist, Sanele Vilakazi, says that raw sewerage spills into the Duzi River has reached crisis levels and unless urgent action is taken, the water...

The Dusi has died... but it can be saved

The Dusi has died... but it can be saved Durban - The latest Dusi pollution crisis is an opportunity to turn the situation of Pietermaritzburg’s rivers around, according to David Still of the Duzi Um...

City’s rivers of pollution

City’s rivers of pollution The sources of industrial pollution in the Mkondeni Spruit have been identified and a clean-up is currently underway.This follows several reports by The Witness dating back...

Sewage dirties dam

Sewage dirties dam Part of Midmar Dam has been declared off limits amid a public outcry over sewage flowing into the dam, which has drawn renewed attention to a historical sewerage problem plaguing t...

Toxic sludge chokes Duzi

Toxic sludge chokes Duzi A suspected burst valve which led to the collapse of a crude oil storage tank at Willowton Oil Mills in Ohrtmann Road left six workers injured and sent about 240 tons of effl...

Environmental groups condemn KZN government's slow response Dozens of environmental experts and activists are working around the clock to clear up about 1.6-million litres of fatty oils and caustic s...

Durban-Pietermaritzburg river pollution is a microcosm of nationwide water pollution control failures. Sometimes, a really bad dose of pollution news can have a silver lining. On 13 August about 30,...

Duzi 'dirtiest in years'

While the army has been called in to help clean the heavily polluted Vaal River, water quality in the dirty Duzi continues to deteriorate. And while the Vaal River is seeing E. coli counts currently ...

Sewage in the stream

  Burst and blocked sewer pipes combined with illegally discharged factory effluent are decimating wildlife in some of the city’s rivers and streams. The Mkondeni Spruit, which runs through Hayfield...

TWC raises R10 000 for DUCT

    Concerns over humans and wildlife being affected have been raised following the major oil spill in the Dorpsruit on Tuesday. On Tuesday, the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) received repo...

Streamlining water purity

    This week is National Water Week and to mark the fact, Umgeni Water teamed up with the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) and schools in Edendale to clean up streams in Imbali and Dambuza. ...

Oil Spill a threat to wildlife and humans

    Concerns over humans and wildlife being affected have been raised following the major oil spill in the Dorpsruit on Tuesday. On Tuesday, the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) received repo...

Mystery over dead fish

    An intensive investigation is under way to determine the reason for scores of dead fish being found floating in the Msunduzi River on Wednesday. Msunduzi Municipality, the Duzi-uMngeni Conserva...

Keeping PMB rivers clean is imperative

    KEEPING rivers clean is everyone’s responsibility as dirty rivers have a negative impact on the lives of many. Some people are under the impression that because they have taps with clean runnin...

Fighting water pollution

    Pollution is everyone’s problem. It requires all hands on deck instead of everyone looking to a few to keep our rivers free of the rivers of waste that compromise water quality. This is what I...

    Rivers don’t lie. An array of litter and other assorted objects are among the flotsam flowing down tributaries to the uMsunduzi River every day. The Witness recently accompanied Duzi-uMngeni C...

Duzi at its dirtiest

    The current water quality in the Duzi River is at its worst ever. Environmentalists have raised alarm bells saying “it has been one of the worst summers for water quality”, with a peak in poor ...

Duct to check sewer pipes

  The Msunduzi municipality is partnering with the Duzi Msunduzi Conservation Trust (Duct) to monitor the health of the city’s rivers. Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said they decided to partner wi...

    WATER hyacinth blockages along the Msunduzi and uMngeni rivers is an ongoing problem for the organisers of the Dusi Canoe Marathon and this year is no different as the rapidly multiplying water ...

DUCT News: August 2017

DUCT OFFICE HAS MOVED! After being well established in Popes Canoe Centre at 4 Edmond Place, Camps Drift, the DUCT office has moved to 240 West Street. Although we are no longer in sight of the uMsun...

It is always such an honour to see someone who is dedicated and passionate about nature to receive such recognition. The Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust Operations Manager Sithembiso Sangweni received...

DUCT at the Garden Show 2016

DUCT Education participated in the Happy Earth Hall, a project of the Happy Earth Forum during the Witness Garden show from 23rd to the 25th of September. With regards to putting up our stand, we got ...

DUCT News: March 2016

Our AGM in December rounded off 2015 with a good attendance and an extremely interesting talk by our Guest Speaker, Paolo Candotti, Chairman of Kloof Conservancy.   We said goodbye to Steve Cohen as...

To Frack or Not to Frack

TO FRACK OR NOT TO FRACK?   Submitted by David Still, Chair of the Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust, writing in his personal capacity   This article was published in the Witness on Tuesday, 3 Novem...

DUCT News: August 2015

  After a lengthy break, our newsletter is back in production! Hopefully, you have all been keeping up to date via our website: www.duct.org.za   Snake awareness training: by Sithembiso Sangweni  ...

Sandmining Rehab Guidelines

Sand Mining Rehab Guidelines The relationship between man and the resources that water courses possess can be described as one sided, with human beings being accused of over exploiting river resource...

Vegetation assesment of Mussons site

Intorduction All EMP reports require a vegetation assessment; this involves a site investigation of all plant material present on the site. This assists the developer/rehabilitator to identify those ...

DUCT Herbicide Management Policy

Herbicide management Introduction Vegetation under the control of DUCT must be managed in an environmentally responsible and cost effective manner. Various methods can be employed to achieve this en...

International Day for action for Rivers

Thank you so much to everyone for their participation in our KZN International Action for Rivers 2014 with Alex and Epworth High on the Foxhill Spruit.  For DUCT every day is Action for Rivers Day but...

Ten things DUCT does for River Health

Improved Water Quality We lobby for improvements to the sewage infrastructure and the operation and maintenance of that infrastructure in Pietermaritzburg and Durban.  We also keep an eye on water qu...

Mayday For Rivers - Walkers arrive home

A Post- Walk Update from Penny Rees..... Follow our uMngeni River Walk blog at : http://umngeniriverwalk.wordpress.com/ Okay, so here I sit in Howick with the late afternoon sun streaming onto my ve...

Walking for Water

Read the "Mayday for Rivers" team blog at http://umngeniriverwalk.wordpress.com/ The "Mayday for Rivers" walking team has set off! Below is an update from the team on their first day of walking...

What a lot of Eco-Action! This year the Indigenous Plant Fair returns to its roots at the KZN Botanic Garden in Pietermaritzburg.  Since those early days (2004), the Fair has grown to include food pl...

SLIP Fair 2013

Sustainable Living and Indigenous Plant Fair 2013 This year the Indigenous Plant Fair returns to it’s roots at the KZN Botanic Gardens in Pietermaritzburg.  Since those early days (2004), the Fair ha...

More From: News