Why oppose fracking in South Africa in 2015?


In the shadow of fracking exploration in South Africa

A synopsis for interested and affected South Africans

 

For more than four years, South Africans (those who follow the media) have been exposed to a media-driven debate on shale gas mining (fracking). Driven largely by Royal Dutch Shell and then Shell South Africa, the public has been exposed to false advertising and simple lies by the applicants to mine shale gas. The government has mismanaged this debate and its concomitant decision on behalf of South Africans in the most appalling manner. Quite apart from the fact that the ANC, as of January 2015, has an increased shareholding and interests in Shell South Africa, the Zuma administration permitted and even encouraged the previous Minister of Minerals, Ms. Susan Shabangu to sidestep the instructions of Cabinet, ignore any voices of dissent in the country and present, in September 2012, a so-called task team report on fracking that roundly fails to grasp even the rudimentary aspects and risks of the technology. At the time that the task team report pronounced fracking safe, not a single South African medical specialist had been included in the task team.

 

In early 2014 President Zuma, at least 18 months before even preliminary exploration commenced, announced as if by some divine revelation, that fracking would be an economic game-changer for South Africa.

 

Meanwhile, around the world, the list of countries, states, provinces, cities and towns that are banning fracking or at least exposing it to some form of government moratorium or restriction is growing. In just December 2014 and January 2015, New York State, Scotland and the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick in Canada have banned fracking, and Algeria has imposed a 7 year moratorium. Maryland is soon to vote on an 8-year moratorium. Notably, in the home country of Shell’s head office (the Netherlands), 71% of the Dutch Parliament placed fracking under an effective moratorium until 2017. The Canadian and NYS bans are especially interesting as they cited two main reasons – water pollution and health concerns; and the failure of shale gas mining to deliver the benefits promised by the industry.

 

Against this background, ANC Ministers faithfully recite figures of jobs and revenue extracted from the Econometrix Report paid for by Shell SA and released in 2012. Notwithstanding the fact that the figures derived from the Econometrix report ignore any of the environmental and secondary costs of fracking such as impacts on eco-system services, farming and tourism (the model applied has been formally criticized by other economists) no one from Shell or our government has rectified the disparity between the 485tcf of gas and the acknowledged best case by South African Scientists of around 30tcf. This is a reduction of 13 times. Yet the 700 000 Shell jobs – based on a percentage of the 485tcf is still touted by Shell and the government.

 

Global estimates of gas resources stem primarily from two sources – the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in the US and that country’s USGS (United States Geological Survey). Almost without exception the first ‘estimated’ gas reserves around the globe have proven to be roundly and routinely overstated. It was the EIA that estimated 18 billion barrels of shale oil from the Monterey Shale in California. This sparked a fierce debate in that State with Governor Jerry Brown vowing to pursue and extract the resource (much like President Zuma in SA). Even President Obama counted ‘at least 100 years of US energy from shale gas’. Less than 24 months later, the EIA had to admit their mistake and slash the reserve by 96%. Similarly, the Marcellus shale was slashed by hundreds of TCF.

 

So, a clear picture is emerging in the global marketing of shale gas by the powerful oil and gas industry and their allies in governments around the world. Overstate the benefits to desperate governments. Promise energy, jobs, money and a false reduction of greenhouse gases. Once the momentum has built up and established a political will, use it to influence policy whilst ignoring science.

 

In South Africa, our government, far from serving the people in this matter, is playing lapdog to Shell, while Falcon, Chevron and Challenger Energy tag along. World-class reports, (such as the Canadian Report) hand-delivered to our President, and to every MEC and Premier of every province are ignored. Public consultation by the government around the holistic concept of shale gas mining has not yet taken place in any form. Draft regulations on fracking, which were open for comment for 30 calendar days in 2013 were slammed by US scientists as ‘pathetic’. Although there has been no feedback from the government on TKAG’s 800 page submission, the government has promised to release ‘final’ fracking regulations ‘soon’.

 

Our Bill of Rights and National Environmental Management Act are unequivocal on the issues of environment. Yet, the deck remains stacked against science.

 

The government has instructed applicants (Shell, Falcon and Bundu) to remove any mention of fracking from their Environmental Management Plans, and so the new round of public consultation becomes focused on ‘exploration techniques only’ – no mention of fracking. This is misleading and disingenuous – but it permits the companies to get the process started and most likely to receive a rapid transition from ’no fracking in exploration until later notice’ to using fracking in exploration – and then a smooth roll-over into full scale production.

 

Those who are opposing fracking in South Africa under the present circumstances are thus pushed into a corner. We can stand back and permit the tableau to play itself out – or we can take action. A solution to halting this headlong game-changer, game-changer rush of the government is for landowners to stand together. Even when the applicants are armed with an ‘exploration licence’ there are many administrative and legal hurdles facing them. A company armed with an exploration licence may not summarily enter your land, for any purpose. They have to consult with you at your convenience and negotiate access and a land-use agreement or similar accord.

 

You can help to balance the skewed scales by:

  1. Demanding identification and a letter of authority/resolution from the person approaching on behalf of the applicant.
  2. Refusing access to the farm and referring them to your lawyer.
  3. Taking your time – their schedule is not your schedule – you are entitled to be fully aware of the import of each and every clause and condition and all of the possible negative effects on your operation.
  4. Putting them to terms about who will pay for baseline tests on your water, vegetation, livestock and staff health before any access and activity takes place.
  5. Putting them to terms on who will pay your attorney costs to represent your interests in this matter (why should you pay to research something that you don’t even want on your farm and which brings you no profit but only risk to your land value?)

The key to this exercise, and the fundamental aim is to level the playing field – not be dishonest or deceitful. This is a straightforward, morally sound and legal remedy to a situation that is fraught with lies from industry and conflicts of interest in the very institution that should be protecting, instead of disadvantaging the food producers of South Africa.

I hope that this synopsis has convinced you of what needs to be done, and I pray that you will stand up and stand together as a group to resist those who wish to rush shale gas mining into this country.

Solidarity. For sustainability, truth and a future beyond the coffers of the ANC, Shell and foreign mining companies.

 

 

Jonathan Deal

February 2015

 

 

Karoo advocacy group in gear for government consultations


Public consultation and participation around fracking is just one of the facets in which the SA Government has failed its citizens. Treasure Karoo Action Group is continually on top of this vital issue.

DMR pages 1-3

DMR pages 1-3-1

DMR pages 1-3-2

Cuadrilla’s consultant’s hype over California shale turns out to be hot air


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Write-down of two-thirds of US shale oil explodes fracking myth

Industry’s over-inflated reserve estimates are unravelling, and with it the ‘American dream’ of oil independence
An oil field over the Monterey shale formation in California

An oil field over the Monterey shale formation in California: 96% reserve downgrade undermines claims that fracking is solution to the world’s energy needs. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

Next month, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) will publish a new estimate of US shale deposits set to deal a death-blow to industry hype about a new golden era of US energy independence by fracking unconventional oil and gas.

EIA officials told the Los Angeles Times that previous estimates of recoverable oil in the Monterey shale reserves in California of about 15.4 billion barrels were vastly overstated. The revised estimate, they said, will slash this amount by 96% to a puny 600 million barrels of oil.

The Monterey formation, previously believed to contain more than double the amount of oil estimated at the Bakken shale in North Dakota, and five times larger than the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas, was slated to add up to 2.8 million jobs by 2020 and boost government tax revenues by $24.6 billion a year.

Industry lobbyists have for long highlighted the Monterey shale reserves as the big game-changer for US oil and gas production. Nick Grealy, who runs the consultancy No Hot Air which is funded by “gas and associated companies”, and includes the UK’s most high-profile shale gas fracker Cuadrilla among its clientspredicted last year that:

“… the star of the North American show is barely on most people’s radar screens. California shale will… reinvigorate the Golden State’s economy over the next two to three years.”

This sort of hype triggered “a speculation boom among oil companies” according to the LA Times. The EIA’s original survey for the US Department of Energy published in 2011 had been contracted out to Intek Inc. That report found that the Monterey shale constituted “64 percent of the total shale oil resources” in the US.

The EIA’s revised estimate was based partly on analysis of actual output from wells where new fracking techniques had been applied. According to EIA petroleum analyst John Staub:

“From the information we’ve been able to gather, we’ve not seen evidence that oil extraction in this area is very productive using techniques like fracking… Our oil production estimates combined with a dearth of knowledge about geological differences among the oil fields led to erroneous predictions and estimates.”

The Intek Inc study for the EIA had relied largely on oil industry claims, rather than proper data. Hitesh Mohan, who authored the Intek study for the EIA, reportedly conceded that “his figures were derived from technical reports and presentations from oil companies, including Occidental Petroleum, which owns the lion’s share of oil leases in the Monterey Shale, at 1.6 million acres.” Mohan had even lifted his original estimate for the EIA to 17 billion barrels.

Geoscientist David Hughes, who worked for the Geological Survey of Canada for 32 years, said:

“The oil had always been a statistical fantasy. Left out of all the hoopla was the fact that the EIA’s estimate was little more than a back-of-the-envelope calculation.”

Last year, the Post Carbon Institute (PCI) published Hughes’ study,Drilling California: A Reality Check on the Monterey Shale, which conducted an empirical analysis of oil production data using a widely used industry database also relied on by the EIA. The report concluded that the original EIA estimate was “highly overstated,” and unlikely to lead to a “statewide economic boom…. California should consider its economic and energy future in the absence of an oil production boom.”

A spokesman for the Institute, Tod Brilliant, told me:

“Given the incredible difference between initial projections of 15 billion barrels and revisions to 600 million, does this not call into account all such global projections for tight oil?”

As I’d reported earlier in June last year, a wider PCI study by Hughes had come to similar conclusions about bullish estimates of US shale oil and gas potential, concluding that “light tight oil production in the USA will peak between 2015 and 2017, followed by a steep decline”, while shale gas production would likely peak next year. In that post, I’d pointed out previous well-documented, and alarmingly common, cases of industry over-estimates of reserve sizes which later had been questioned.

Analysts like Jeremy Leggett have said, citing exaggerated oil industry estimates, that if reserve and production reality are indeed significantly lower than industry forecasts, we could be at risk of an oil shock as early as within the next five years.

The latest revelations follow a spate of bad news for industry reassurances about the fracking boom. New research published this month has found that measured methane leaks from fracking operations were three times larger than forecasted. The US Environment Protection Agency therefore “significantly underestimates” methane emissions from fracking, by as much as a 100 to a 1,000 times according to a new Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study published in April.

The Associated Press also reported, citing a Government Accountability Office investigation, that the US Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management had failed to adequately inspect thousands of oil and gas wells that are potentially high risk for water and environmental damage.

Despite the mounting evidence that the shale gas boom is heading for a bust, both economically and environmentally, both governments and industry are together pouring their eggs into a rather flimsy basket.

According to a secret trade memo obtained by the Huffington Post, the Obama administration and the European Union are pushing ahead with efforts to “expand US fracking, offshore oil drilling and natural gas exploration”, as well as exports to the EU, under the prospective Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement.

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an international security journalist and academic. He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It, and the forthcoming science fiction thriller, Zero Point. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @nafeezahmed.

Energy independence from shale up in smoke?


The shale mining fraternity, still reeling from the release of a Scientific Report on the effect of shale gas mining – released by the Canadian Council of Academies has been dealt another blow with the news that the golden energy goose of California has been reduced by 96% – by the US Energy Information Administration. The industry and its proponents in government and commerce have long been warned about the overhyping of shale gas assets in the US. Even in South Africa, the original estimates by the USGS, of 485tcf have been downgraded by South Africa’s own scientists to a ‘best case extraction scenario of 40tcf.

U.S. officials cut estimate of recoverable Monterey Shale oil by 96%

Economy, Business and Finance Petroleum Industry Energy Resources Upstream Oil and Gas Activities
The Monterey Shale formation contains about two-thirds of the nation’s shale oil reserves
An earlier estimate assumed Monterey Shale oil deposits were as easily recoverable as those found elsewhere

Federal energy authorities have slashed by 96% the estimated amount of recoverable oil buried in California’s vast Monterey Shale deposits, deflating its potential as a national “black gold mine” of petroleum.

Just 600 million barrels of oil can be extracted with existing technology, far below the 13.7 billion barrels once thought recoverable from the jumbled layers of subterranean rock spread across much of Central California, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

The new estimate, expected to be released publicly next month, is a blow to the nation’s oil future and to projections that an oil boom would bring as many as 2.8 million new jobs to California and boost tax revenue by $24.6 billion annually.

The Monterey Shale formation contains about two-thirds of the nation’s shale oil reserves. It had been seen as an enormous bonanza, reducing the nation’s need for foreign oil imports through the use of the latest in extraction techniques, including acid treatments, horizontal drilling and fracking.

The energy agency said the earlier estimate of recoverable oil, issued in 2011 by an independent firm under contract with the government, broadly assumed that deposits in the Monterey Shale formation were as easily recoverable as those found in shale formations elsewhere.

The estimate touched off a speculation boom among oil companies. The new findings seem certain to dampen that enthusiasm.

Kern County in particular has seen a flurry of oil activity since 2011, with most of the test wells drilled by independent exploratory companies. Major oil companies have expressed doubts for years about recovering much of the oil.

The problem lies with the geology of the Monterey Shale, a 1,750-mile formation running down the center of California roughly from Sacramento to the Los Angeles basin and including some coastal regions.

Unlike heavily fracked shale deposits in North Dakota and Texas, which are relatively even and layered like a cake, Monterey Shale has been folded and shattered by seismic activity, with the oil found at deeper strata.

Geologists have long known that the rich deposits existed but they were not thought recoverable until the price of oil rose and the industry developed acidization, which eats away rocks, and fracking, the process of injecting millions of gallons of water laced with sand and chemicals deep underground to crack shale formations.

The new analysis from the Energy Information Administration was based, in part, on a review of the output from wells where the new techniques were used.

“From the information we’ve been able to gather, we’ve not seen evidence that oil extraction in this area is very productive using techniques like fracking,” said John Staub, a petroleum exploration and production analyst who led the energy agency’s research.

“Our oil production estimates combined with a dearth of knowledge about geological differences among the oil fields led to erroneous predictions and estimates,” Staub said.

Compared with oil production from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas, “the Monterey formation is stagnant,” Staub said. He added that the potential for recovering the oil could rise if new technology is developed.

A spokesman for the oil industry expressed optimism that new techniques will eventually open up the Monterey formation.

“We have a lot of confidence in the intelligence and skill of our engineers and geologists to find ways to adapt,” said Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Assn. “As the technologies change, the production rates could also change dramatically.”

Rock Zierman, chief executive of the trade group California Independent Petroleum Assn., which represents many independent exploration companies, also sounded hopeful.

“The smart money is still investing in California oil and gas,” Zierman said.

“The oil is there,” Zierman said. “But this is a tough business.”

Environmental organizations welcomed the news as a turning point in what had been a rush to frack for oil in the Monterey formation.

“The narrative of fracking in the Monterey Shale as necessary for energy independence just had a big hole blown in it,” said Seth B. Shonkoff, executive director of the nonprofit Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy.

J. David Hughes, a geoscientist and spokesman for the nonprofit Post Carbon Institute, said the Monterey formation “was always mythical mother lode puffed up by the oil industry — it never existed.”

Hughes wrote in a report last year that “California should consider its economic and energy future in the absence of an oil production boom from the Monterey Shale.”

The 2011 estimate was done by the Virginia engineering firm Intek Inc.

Christopher Dean, senior associate at Intek, said Tuesday that the firm’s work “was very broad, giving the federal government its first shot at an estimate of recoverable oil in the Monterey Shale. They got more data over time and refined the estimate.”

For California, the analysis throws cold water on economic projections built upon Intek’s projections.

In 2013, a USC analysis, funded in part by the Western States Petroleum Assn., predicted that the Monterey Shale formation could, by 2020, boost California’s gross domestic product by 14%, add $24.6 billion per year in tax revenue and generate 2.8 million new jobs.

louis.sahagun@latimes.com

 

WWF and SAFM host a debate on fracking. Will President Zuma tune in?


Decisive Debate

Full Canadian scientific report released amongst industry furore


As the full report on fracking – issued by the Council of Canadian Academies was released, the oil and gas industry – quite predictably are running around trying to do damage control.

Typical industry response as in the quote from David Pryce of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was “We would not agree with that. The fact that we’ve been in this business for decades in the natural gas business and 10 years in the business of hydraulic fracturing, we’ve got a great deal of experience in this place.”

The sheer audacity of such a statement in the face of this report can only be based on one underlying fact – they make their money out of oil and gas production. Of course they would not want to ‘agree’ with the report. Moreover, to make such a statement on the day that the full report is released suggests a careless arrogance, and begs the question:

“How can the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers make a judgement call on a report that they have not yet even read through, let alone studied”?

Having downloaded the report (available here) I provide an excerpt detailing the scientists and specialists involved in authoring and releasing the report, as well as the reviewers and the final protocol observed in the compilation, review and release of the report. In my view, this is a substantial body of work that cannot be brushed aside by political leaders.

“The report should be viewed by the ANC and the organs of the South African Government charged with responsibility, or involved in any decisions on Minerals and Petroleum as a serious reason to step back from the euphoric rush to pursue shale gas mining in this country under the current circumstances.” – Jonathan Deal

HERE FOLLOWS THE NAMES AND QUALIFICATIONS OF THE EXPERT PANEL: [emphasis of specialisation added for ease of reference]

Expert Panel on Harnessing Science and Technology to Understand the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction

John Cherry, FRSC (Chair), Director of the University Consortium for Field-Focused Groundwater Contamination Research, Associate Director of G360 – Centre for Applied Groundwater Research, and Adjunct Professor in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph (Guelph, ON)

Michael Ben-Eli, Founder & Director of the Sustainability Laboratory (New York, NY)

Lalita Bharadwaj, Associate Professor, Toxicologist, School of Public Health, University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, SK)

Richard Chalaturnyk, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)

Maurice B. Dusseault, Part-Time Professor of Engineering Geology, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON)

Bernard Goldstein, Professor of Environmental and Public Health, GraduateSchool of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)

Jean-Paul Lacoursière, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering Department, University of Sherbrooke (Sherbrooke, QC)

Ralph Matthews, Professor, Department of Sociology, the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC); Professor Emeritus of Sociology, McMaster University

Bernhard Mayer, Professor of Isotope Geochemistry, Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)

John Molson, Canada Research Chair in Quantitative Hydrogeology of Fractured Porous Media, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Laval University (Québec, QC)

Kelly Munkittrick, Director, Monitoring, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (Calgary, AB)

Naomi Oreskes, Professor, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

Beth Parker, Director, G360 Centre for Applied Groundwater Research, University of Guelph (Guelph, ON)

Paul Young, FRSC, Vice President (Research) & Professor of Geophysics, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)

This list of specialists, and the openness with which the report has been treated is in direct contrast to the conduct of the South African Department of Minerals which conducted an insular and secret investigation, releasing a document to the South African Cabinet, which lead to that body authorising the Minister of Minerals to lift the moratorium on shale gas mining in South Africa, under the conclusion that ‘Shale gas mining can be done safely.” – Jonathan Deal

HERE FOLLOWS THE NAMES AND QUALIFICATIONS OF THE REVIEWERS AND THE PROTOCOL APPLIED:

“Report Review

This report was reviewed in draft form by the individuals listed below — a

group of reviewers selected by the Council of Canadian Academies for their

diverse perspectives, areas of expertise, and broad representation of academic,

industrial, policy, and non-governmental organizations.[emphasis added]

The reviewers assessed the objectivity and quality of the report. Their

submissions — which will remain confidential — were considered in full by

the Panel, and many of their suggestions were incorporated into the report.

They were not asked to endorse the conclusions, nor did they see the final

draft of the report before its release. Responsibility for the final content of this

report rests entirely with the authoring Panel and the Council.

The Council wishes to thank the following individuals for their review of

this report:

Tom Al, Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Brunswick (Fredericton, NB)

Stefan Bachu, Distinguished Scientist, Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures (Edmonton, AB)

Paul Jeakins, Commissioner and CEO, BC Oil and Gas Commission (Victoria, BC)

René Lefebvre, Professor, Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) (Québec, QC)

Karlis Muehlenbachs, Professor of Geochemistry, Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)

M. Anne Naeth, Professor, Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)

Robert Page, Director, Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)

Kent Perry, Vice President, Onshore Programs, Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (Houston, TX)

Edward Sudicky, FRSC, Canada Research Chair in Quantitative Hydrogeology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON)

Jason Switzer, Co-Director, National Projects and Consulting Group, Pembina Institute (Calgary, AB)

Report Review xi

The report review procedure was monitored on behalf of the Council’s Board

of Governors and Scientific Advisory Committee by Dr. John Hepburn, FRSC,

Vice-President, Research and International, University of British Columbia. [emphasis added]

The role of the report review monitor is to ensure that the panel gives full and

fair consideration to the submissions of the report reviewers. The Board of the

Council authorizes public release of an expert panel report only after the report

review monitor confirms that the Council’s report review requirements have

been satisfied. [Emphasis added] The Council thanks Dr. Hepburn for his diligent contribution

as report review monitor.

Elizabeth Dowdeswell, O.C., President and CEO

Council of Canadian Academies

Canadian report on shale gas mining is a warning for the ANC


Breaking news from a leaked Canadian report on fracking reveal serious concerns underpinned by scientific investigation. The report commissioned in 2012 by former Canadian environment minister Peter Kent, has been developed by the  Council of Canadian Academies, ‘an arm’s-length scientific body to provide an overview of the known scientific research on fracking.

Many of the impacts, risks and conclusions drawn in the report have since 2011, been hi-lighted by TKAG and other South African stakeholders in formal communication to the South African public and various departments of the South African government as well as the Cabinet of South Africa.

Despite these caveats, now convincingly echoed from afar, the ANC has made it clear that they will be pursuing shale gas mining in SA – “The development of petroleum, especially shale gas, will be a game changer for the Karoo region and the South African economy. Having evaluated the risks and opportunities, the final regulations will be released soon and will be followed by the processing and granting of licences.” [President Jacob Zuma in his State of The Nation Address in Cape Town http://bit.ly/1o5LGRo]

Among the risks and concerns mentioned in a pre-release of the report, are the following excerpts:

[…publicly-available science on shale gas extraction to be woefully inadequate...]
[… Most experts agree that impacts on water raise the greatest environmental concern by shale gas development …]
[… Shale gas extraction, which is much more advanced in the United States than in Canada, has been proceeding without an adequate scientific understanding of its impacts…]
[… Authoritative data about potential environmental impacts are neither sufficient nor conclusive…]
[… While tens of thousands of shale gas wells have been drilled across North America over the last two decades, mostly in the United States, there has been no comprehensive investment in the research and monitoring of environmental impacts…]
[…The potential impacts of leaking wells are not being systemically monitored, and predictions (on the impacts of leakages) remain unreliable …] 
[… Shale gas can have a dramatic effect on communities, increasing income inequality and pollution …]

This report – soon to be available in an unabridged version is a vindication of the position that those opposed to shale gas mining have held in SA since 2011. Scientific documents of this nature, readily available to the ANC and its heads of Department will greet the organisation in Court when it has to justify its position and action in pushing this technology into South Africa in the manner in which it has stated it will do.

“The ANC and its ministers still have an opportunity to avoid a blunder on a global scale – or they can pugnaciously forge ahead with their stated intention to let fracking loose in South Africa.” – Jonathan Deal

Here is an abridged version of the report and a link:http://bit.ly/1iBPISf

FURTHER COMMENT / ADDITIONAL DATA : Jonathan Deal 023-358-9903  jonathan.deal@treasurethekaroo.co.za or Jeanie Le Roux – 072-959-1818 research@treasurethekaroo.co.za

 

Fracking’s greatest risk is water contamination: leaked report

APTOPIX Fracking A Closer Look

A landmark report commissioned by Environment Canada has found water contamination to be the greatest threat posed by the shale gas extraction method known as fracking.

The “Expert Panel on Harnessing Science & Technology to Understand the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction” report finds publicly-available science on shale gas extraction to be woefully inadequate while pointing to a long list of potential negative environmental effects — of which water contamination is the most worrisome.

“Most experts agree that impacts on water raise the greatest environmental concern by shale gas development,” says the report’s executive summary, a copy of which was obtained by iPolitics Wednesday.

Increased greenhouse gas emissions, seismic activity, socioeconomic disruption and poor scientific monitoring also pose a problem for shale gas extraction, an established industry in British Columbia and Alberta but with potential in eastern provinces, the report says.

Shale gas extraction, which is much more advanced in the United States than in Canada, has been proceeding without an adequate scientific understanding of its impacts, says the report’s conclusion.

“Well-targeted science is required to ensure a better understanding of the environmental impacts of shale gas development,” it says. “Authoritative data about potential environmental impacts are neither sufficient nor conclusive.”

The report focuses specifically on shale gas extraction, which has been made possible thanks to advancements in two technologies: horizontal drilling along shale rock formations and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

Shale deposits have been identified around the world, but North America is ground zero for the so-called ‘shale boom’.

Adequate regulation of shale gas fracking has been a pressing question for the industry, which has been the target of documentaries and environmentalist campaigns in the U.S. over the past several years.

The anxiety over shale gas fracking eventually led former environment minister Peter Kent to commission the report in 2012. He asked the Council of Canadian Academies, an arm’s-length scientific body Ottawa occasionally turns to for advice, to provide an overview of the known scientific research on fracking.

The council encountered a scientific field riddled with unknowns.

“While tens of thousands of shale gas wells have been drilled across North America over the last two decades, mostly in the United States, there has been no comprehensive investment in the research and monitoring of environmental impacts,” the report says.

A lot of information isn’t known, and a lot that is isn’t public, says the report. “As a result, many pertinent questions are hard to answer objectively and scientifically.”

Despite the knowledge gaps, the consensus among the panelists is that water contamination is the greatest threat. The report says a gas leak into groundwater poses the highest risk, which could happen if the gas travelled around the well or if it leaked through an improperly installed casing.

“The potential impacts of leaking wells are not being systemically monitored, and predictions (on the impacts of leakages) remain unreliable,” the report says.

There’s a second potential route for contamination, the report says. Fracking takes place inside rock about 1,000 meters below the surface and involves the breaking up of shale to release pockets of natural gas. The region where fracking occurs is much deeper than the groundwater level, but if there are pathways in the shale rock there’s a risk that natural gas — along with the fluids and chemicals used in fracking — could leak into groundwater, says the report.

“The migration of gases and saline fluids through these pathways over the long term could result in potentially substantial cumulative impacts on water quality,” it says. But, “There is no known case of hydraulic fracturing fluid migration from deep shale gas zones to groundwater level directly through the rock.”

The climate change impacts of fracking could be positive if fracking leads to natural gas displacing more carbon-intensive fuels like coal, the report says.

But if the shale boom takes investment away from renewable power, it could make things worse, it says.

Potential seismic effects are minimal, but a greater threat comes from the storage of wastewater in emptied-out gas pockets, it says. The council says seismic monitoring can reduce impacts.

Shale gas can have a dramatic effect on communities, increasing income inequality and pollution, the report says. A general lack of social acceptance and trust is also undermining the public’s understanding of shale gas, it says.

“Psychosocial impacts have also been reported,” it says. “Lack of transparency and conflicting messages can lead to the perception that industry or authorities are not forthcoming, which can augment concern about individual quality of life and contribute to feelings of anxiety about the future.”

The provinces, which have varying degrees of regulation when it comes to fracking, are ultimately responsible for making sure the industry operates responsibly, the report says. There will be governance challenges, however, given the disparate impacts of the industry on those near the operations and those who benefit, it says.

B.C. is nurturing the exploration of its shale gas with the aim of becoming a hub for the export of liquified natural gas. Quebec and Nova Scotia currently have moratoriums on fracking while New Brunswick is updating regulations for the divisive shale gas operations happening there.

The federal government — which has some jurisdiction over the shale gas boom through its regulation of toxic chemicals, emissions and fish habitat — has been sponsoring research programs on fracking’s impact while waiting for the Council of Canadian Academies report.

The report will be released officially in full tomorrow.

/ENDS