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

 

Confusion ‘rains’ on SA Department of Minerals


The government approach to shale gas mining is anything but dull – with conflicting statements at Ministerial level vying for space with notices in the government gazette in a month that has left the oil & gas industry reeling. And just to add a bit more confusion, South Africa’s own agencies (http://bit.ly/1eilcos) have reduced the estimates of shale gas by a factor of more than 12 from 485tcf (commonly touted) to 40tcf.

Business

Controversial minerals Bill stalls abruptly

21 FEB 2014 00:00 LYNLEY DONNELLY

Parliament’s committee on mineral resources says gas and oil should be treated differently to mining.

Untapped: Susan Shabangu has in effect extended the moratorium on fracking until draft technical ­regulations have been promulgated. (Mike Hutchings/Reuters)

Parliament’s portfolio committee on mineral resources delayed its deliberations on controversial changes to the country’s mining and petroleum law this week.

Although it will bring some relief to the mining industry, which has publicly locked horns with the government over the changes envisaged in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment (MPRDA) Bill, it prolongs policy uncertainty for other players such as those in the nascent oil and gas sector.

The portfolio committee decided on Tuesday to delay deliberations on the Bill. This followed the introduction of new amendments that required alignment with environmental legislation and as such the speaker of Parliament and the National Assembly had to be notified in writing.

The committee’s chair, Faith Bikani, also said a thorough investigation of the separation of the oil and gas sector from the jurisdiction of the country’s mining laws was needed.

“We need to acknowledge that there is a difference in level of the progress we have made in the mining industry as compared to the progress we have made in the oil and gas industry,” Bikani said.

The oil and gas industry has long advocated this. The hiatus in legislative wrangling came hot on the heels of two notices published in the Government Gazette by Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu that had oil and gas industry players scratching their heads.

A regard “for the national interest”
The first in effect extended the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, until draft technical regulations for it are finalised and promulgated.

The second invited comments from interested parties on the minister’s much broader intention to “restrict the granting of all new onshore and offshore applications for reconnaissance permits, technical co-operation permits, exploration rights and production rights” for two years.

The official reasons given for the notices were a regard “for the national interest and the need to promote the sustainable development of the nation’s petroleum resources”.

Luke Havemann, an oil and gas expert at law firm ENSafrica, said it could be surmised that the government is seeking to get its “regulatory and legislative house in order”.

Recent developments in the sector, notably the MPRDA Bill and the draft regulations on hydraulic fracturing, both of which have been sharply criticised by stakeholders, pointed to the need for the sector to be governed by is own regulatory and legislative framework.

“Regulation of two distinct industries under the MPRDA has never been the best approach,” Havemann said.

Renewed interest in SA’s oil sector
There is a renewed interest in South Africa’s oil and gas sector, he said, and three “super majors” are active in local waters.

There has also been a high number of applications for exploration licences and the like over the past three years.

Hitting the pause button may dampen the appetite of international oil and gas companies to operate in a country that is not going to be granting licences for the next two years, he said.

But, if the government took the opportunity to improve the regulatory and legislative regime, it could have important positive consequences in future, he said.

“Then the industry would be operating in an … environment that is not dissimilar to other jurisdictions in which these operators work. We are out of step with international best practice when it comes to the way in which we regulate our oil and gas industry.”

But the debate about a division goes against the position publicly taken by Shabangu. At the 2014 Mining Indaba two weeks ago, she said that the two sectors should be governed by one Act to ensure centralisation and regulatory harmony.

Less concerned about the deadline
She was confident that the Bill would be finalised before Parliament’s term expired before the elections.

But the portfolio committee appears less concerned about the deadline. Bikani said, given the stage of development of the local oil and gas sector, it has to be “nurtured” and special attention must be given to aspects of the industry, such as operations in a “sea environment”.

“Right now I am not worried about timelines of the Bill being passed. Instead, let’s wait for the ruling party and get a clear understanding of what route we take to nurture the oil and gas industry,” Bikani said.

The Democratic Alliance’s spokesperson on mineral resources, James Lorimer, said the “more time spent in processing the Bill, the more chance that those driving the Bill will see sense”.

He said the department had ignored the input of industry stakeholders, which had contributed to the current pressure to make so many changes to the legislation now.

Although delays may aggravate the uncertainty for the oil and gas industry, a “harsh choice” has to be made, he said.

Critical issues to be addressed
“It’s not first prize but its better than unacceptable, damaging legislation being passed now.”

Other critical issues still have to be addressed. These include clarity on a proposed 20% free carried interest for the state in all new oil and gas ventures, with an option to purchase a further 30%.

According to critics this proposal, and potential requirements for a 26% black economic empowerment stake, leaves little equity available to investors in new projects, even though they would provide most of the initial capital and bear most of the risk.

The department did not respond to emailed questions by deadline.

Exxon CEO Tillerson is the ultimate NIMBY


Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson Sues To Block Water Tower That Might Supply Fracking Operations

The Huffington Post  | by  James Gerken
Posted: 02/21/2014 5:12 pm EST Updated: 02/21/2014 5:59 pm EST


Main Entry Image

Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., is a big fan of hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas, unless it’s potentially undermining the property value of his Texas ranch.

Tillerson and some of his neighbors — including former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) — filed a lawsuit last year against a suburban Dallas water utility to stop construction of a 160-foot water tower, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The partially built “monstrosity,” as the lawsuit calls it, is adjacent to both Tillerson’s Bar RR Ranch and Armey’s property. The suit alleges that the water tower is diminishing neighbors’ property values and “causing unreasonable discomfort and annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities.”

Tucked into the complaint are also concerns that the Bartonville Water Supply Corp. will sell some of the stored water to energy companies for hydraulic fracturing — also known as fracking — and hauling the water away will create a “noise nuisance and traffic hazards.”

A lawyer representing the ExxonMobil CEO told the Journal that Tillerson himself hasn’t shared any explicit worries about traffic from fracking companies, but is more concerned about property values.

Fracking is a technique for extracting oil and natural gas from shale formations.Large quantities of water, along with sand and chemical blends, are pumped underground to fracture rock formations and stimulate the release of hydrocarbons. A 2012 University of Texas study estimated that shale gas production around Dallas represents about 9 percent of the city’s annual water use. Another recent UT study found that Texas actually saves water by extracting natural gas and using it for power generation instead of coal.

The state, which experienced its worst single-year drought ever in 2011, is expected to face even greater water stress in future decades thanks to climate change and a growing population.

British Petroleum dismisses shale gas carbon claims


BP study predicts greenhouse emissions will rise by almost a third in 20 years

Energy firm’s analysis finds switch to other fuels like shale gas will do little to cut carbon emissions
BP oil rig Alaska

Rig in BP oil-field near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Research by the energy firm looks at the likelihood of curtailing climate change.
Photograph: Worldfoto/Alamy

 

Global greenhouse gas emissions are set to rise by nearly a third in the next two decades, putting hopes of curtailing dangerous climate change beyond reach, a new report by BP has found.

The drastic rise in emissions, despite international efforts to cut carbon, will come despite the predicted enormous growth in the use of shale gas, according to the oil and gas giant.

Shale gas – previously inaccessible because the exploitation of these resources requires technology only recently perfected – will account for a rising proportion of the growth in energy in the years to 2035, but its use will not cause a decline in greenhouse gases.

The finding deals a blow to proponents of shale gas, who have argued that its use will cut emissions. Burning gas produces much less CO2 than burning coal, but the effect of a huge rise in shale gas exploration will not ameliorate the increases in emissions that scientists say will take the world to dangerous climate change.

Proponents of the fuel have argued that shale gas can counteract dependence on coal. But while shale gas use has increased dramatically, particularly in the US, where it brought down gas prices from $12 (£7) to below $3 (£1.80) at one stage, global emissions have continued to rise as the coal that would otherwise have been used has been exported elsewhere.

Christof Ruehl, BP chief economist, said that fuel switching had little impact on overall emissions. Coal use globally had risen to record levels, even as shale gas had risen.

In the UK, shale gas has received a boost from David Cameron, who vowed to go all out for shale by offering taxpayer-funded giveaways to companies. But the news that such a move will not cut overall emissions takes away a key plank in the arguments put forward by shale companies.

BP in its global energy outlook said gas would take a 27% share of global energy consumption by 2035, with a similar share for coal, oil, and an amalgamated low-carbon sector including nuclear, hydro, wind and sun.

BP predicts that global emissions will rise 29% by 2035. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that emissions must peak by 2020 to give the world a chance to avoid a further two degrees of warming, beyond which the effects of climate change become catastrophic and irreversible.

Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, said: “The case for shale gas is crumbling. Experts say it won’t lead to cheaper fuel bills, and now BP says it won’t cut carbon emissions either.

“Follow the PM’s logic and we’d be punching thousands of holes in our countryside only to further add to climate change and continue with sky-high bills.

“Instead of going all out for shale, the prime minister should focus on the real answers to the energy challenges we face: energy efficiency and renewable power.”

Meanwhile, analysts at the City firm Brewin Dolphin also poured scorn on Cameron and George Osborne for over-hyping the potential impact of shale in Britain. “We believe the shale industry is unlikely to produce commercial volumes of gas until the end of this decade and that it is unlikely to have a meaningful impact on gas prices,” said a report drawn up by Elaine Coverley, head of equity research, and Iain Armstrong, oil and gas equity analyst at the investment house.

“This is due to two reasons; first, commercially available volumes are likely to be significantly lower in the UK than in the US, and second, if UK shale is successful, exploration companies could export the gas to achieve higher prices,” they argue.

Their comments came as a new opinion poll for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) found that 47% of people would be unhappy for a gas well site using fracking to open within 10 miles of their home, compared with just 14% who said they would be happy.

The findings come just days after the prime minister announced that councils that back fracking will get to keep more money from the business tax revenues once production at a well is under way.

The biggest concerns for the people polled included fears of damage to the local environment, the associated noise and disruption, fears over the chemicals used and health risks, as well as fears that drinking water might be contaminated.

Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the IME, said: “These poll results suggest that simply offering money to local councils and communities is not enough to convince the public about the benefits of fracking for gas and that much more work needs to be done to engage with citizens on this potential activity.

“Building trust between government, industry and communities is essential if we wish to make use of this technique in shale rocks under the UK.”

The Guardian carried out the first UK nationwide poll on shale last summer and found people split down the middle, 40% in favour of shale drilling in their area, 40% against, with 20% unsure. The IME poll suggests attitudes to shale are hardening rather than softening.

Daily Email

Cheap gas hopes fading in Britain – but Jacob Zuma hangs SA hopes on shale


Express. Home of the Daily and Sunday Express.express_logo

Dashed hopes of cheap gas as fracking giant Cuadrilla scales back

MOVES to start fracking for shale gas across Britain have received a major setback after one of the largest firms involved in the industry dramatically scaled back its plans.

Published: Mon, January 27, 2014

Cuardrilla one of the largest fracking firms went under investigaton by the BBC

Cuardrilla, one of the largest fracking firms, went under investigaton by the BBC [ALAMY]

The firm, Cuadrilla, has admitted to a BBC investigation that it has decided to “withdraw previous permit applications for our sites in Lancashire”.

The move means that while the firm can drill test sites it cannot frack any gas or oil reserves it finds.

Work can go ahead only if it has Environment Agency radioactive waste permits proving extractors can safely remove dangerous waste products.

Fracking involves pumping high-pressure water into rock deep underground to open fissures and release trapped gas.

A by-product is waste water contaminated by natural low-level radiation. Cuadrilla insisted to BBC Inside Out North West that it does hope in the future to submit new waste permit applications in Lancashire where shale rock is thought to contain huge amounts of natural gas.

But radiation waste adviser Dr Trevor Jones told BBC investigators that significant investment is likely to be needed to find a way to solve the waste problem, meaning plans for fracking all across the UK could be held up. The Government has pinned hopes for cheaper energy on the success of fracking.

Fracking, Cuadrilla, gas prices, economics, balcombe, shale gas, drilling

Protestors at the fracking site in Balcombe last summer [GETTY]

Fracking may or may not become a boom industry Paul Rose, marine expert and explorer

But Dr Jones explained: “Suitable treatment technologies are not available off the shelf and that will, inevitably delay fracking operations.”

Cuadrilla believes it can overcome the issue of disposing of radioactive water and says it has run successful trials. But these have yet to be proven full-scale.

The TV investigation, to be shown at 7.30pm tonight on BBC1 in the North-west, also reveals that almost two million gallons of radioactive water produced by Cuadrilla under earlier rules was authorised for discharge, legally, into the Manchester Ship Canal.

Marine expert and explorer Paul Rose, who presents the programme, concludes: “Fracking may or may not become a boom industry.

“The operators will know what’s down there only by drilling many more exploratory wells. If the gas is viable, they’ll be producing lots and lots of water contaminated with radiation. The only certainty we have now is that no one, yet, can guarantee how those sorts of volumes are going to be cleaned.”

During the summer, Cuadrilla was the target of protests by locals and hundreds of activists from around the country over its drilling activities in Balcombe, West Sussex.

The company announced last week that it would not frack at Balcombe because, although it had found oil at the site, the nature of the rock meant fracking was not a suitable extraction technique.

Related articles

US team facilitates SA fracking discussion


Treasure Karoo Action Group

Environment and Energy

 

Media release

February 14 2014

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

US team facilitates SA fracking discussion

 

Stakeholders in the South African shale gas debate met in Pretoria, February 10 and 11 to consider the issues surrounding the advent of shale gas mining in South Africa. The workshop, hosted by the Departments of International Relations and Cooperation, Water Affairs and Environmental affairs provided a forum for stakeholders from government, industry and civil society to air their views on fracking under the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program.

 

The US delegation, under the auspices of the US Department of Interior was headed up by Joseph Figueiredo of the Bureau of Energy Resources with support from the US Bureau of Land Management as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency and other US officials with knowledge of shale gas mining legislation and policy. Figueroa made it clear that the US delegation was not in SA to promote fracking but rather to assist by sharing experiences connected with the technology in the United States.

 

Representatives from Environment, Water Affairs, CSIR, Department of Science & Technology, Department of Minerals, Petroleum Agency of SA, amongst others, formed part of the SA government delegation. Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Baker Hughes, SRK Consulting, Sasol and others represented industry. Presentations on the Civil Society perspective were delivered by Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) and TKAG.

 

In an announcement in Johannesburg after the event, TKAG CEO Jonathan Deal said that the engagement was the most positive development that TKAG  had experienced in more than three years of frustrating dialogue around fracking in South Africa. “Finally, we have a commitment from engaged government agencies to develop a strategic environmental assessment around the issue of shale gas mining. This is what we have been asking for since May of 2011.”

 

Complimenting the Department of Water Affairs for its proactive and accessible approach to the debate, Deal remarked “We can only hope that by some process of osmosis, the Department of Minerals will follow this example and engage appropriately with all of the stakeholders in this decision.” “In the light of this dialogue, we experience the seemingly uncoordinated announcements by Minister Shabangu (Mining Indaba and government Gazette) in connection to shale gas as perplexing. It will be a sad day if the DMR must be opposed by South African citizens in pursuit of their rights,” concluded Deal.

 

Meanwhile, the DMR published two notices in the Government Gazette, one inviting comment on placing a restriction on granting new reconnaissance, technical cooperation permits and exploration rights for the next two years and another notice, restricting licences that may be granted from applications received prior to February 2011 over a designated area, from using hydraulic fracturing in the exploration phase until the regulations around the process are finalised.

 

The engagement closed after the adoption of a set of principles presented by Prof Gregory Scott of DWA. Facilitator, Mr. Aniel Singh – Deputy Director General of Water Affairs stressed DWA’s commitment to continue the process with the inclusion of all stakeholders.

 

 

ENDS/

 

Jonathan Deal

CEO

Treasure Karoo Action Group

Cell: 076 838 5150

Landline 023 358 9903

 

Elzane Grobbelaar

Treasure Karoo Action Group

Phone Office: 021 824 2935

Email: admin@treasurethekaroo.co.za

 

Jeanie Le Roux

Treasure Karoo Action Group

072-959-1818

email: research@treasurethekaroo.co.za

 

Chevron gas well explosion and fire in Pennsylvania


Reuters
Posted: 02/11/2014 5:02 pm EST Updated: 02/11/2014 5:59 pm EST

By Elizabeth DaleyPITTSBURGH, Feb 11 (Reuters) – One person was injured and another missing after an explosion on Tuesday at a natural gas well in southwestern Pennsylvania owned by Chevron Corporation , a company spokesman said.

A fire at the site continued to burn on Tuesday afternoon after the blast at around 6:45 a.m. at Chevron Appalachia’s Lanco 7H well in Dunkard Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania around 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, near the West Virginia border.

Chevron did not immediately know the cause of the blast, company spokesman Kent Robertson said.

The company initiated emergency response procedures and called in assistance from Wild Well Control, an organization trained specifically to deal with natural gas explosions, he said.

One person was taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries, and rescuers continued to search for a person who was missing, a Greene County dispatcher said.

“Chevron’s primary concern at this point is to contain the fire and ensure the safety of its employees, contractors and the surrounding community,” Robertson said in an email.