Webber Wentzel counts 310 years of Energy for SA from Karoo gas


Read the opening statement of SA law firm Webber Wentzel’s Pulane Kingston in a May 30 debate on national radio in South Africa. Kingston is a partner in the Oil and Gas practice of the firm. The debate motion (hosted jointly by WWF South Africa and SAFM – a national radio station), pitted two teams of ‘experts’ against one another. The formal motion was ‘FRACKING THREATENS OUR WATER RESOURCES’, and debaters were afforded 2 minutes for an opening statement.

Referencing ’emotional and alarmist statements’ [about shale gas] as something to avoid, Kingston embarked on an opening statement, that apart from failing even once to obliquely reference the debate motion, was materially inaccurate and curiously muddled for a legal professional and so-called expert on fracking. Basing her argument on obsolete figures of speculative shale gas reserves already slashed by South African scientists and referencing industry commissioned (Royal Dutch Shell) reports based on shale gas reserves 13 times greater than current best estimates, Kingston was apparently so taken with her calculation of 310 years of energy for South Africa out of speculated Karoo reserves that the issue of water, and the motion of the debate against which she was expected to argue, appeared to evaporate like a drop of water on a hot Karoo tin roof. A sober review of Kingston’s 310 year claim could be said by those with a more pragmatic approach to the speculative land of milk and honey, to earn first place in the joint categories of ’emotional and alarmist’. I have to conclude that if this position reflects the understanding and expertise of shale gas mining to be found in the top legal minds of South Africa, it demonstrates that the country is in a dire situation with regard to understanding the issues intrinsic to shale gas mining. A rigorous and structured follow-up debate with Kingston sans radio adverts, news reports and audience participation will be welcomed.

The opening statement can be viewed on Youtube at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXeSEPdu9xc and is here in text: (begins 14 minutes and 10 seconds into the debate)

PULANE KINGSTON:

“Shale gas presents an incredible opportunity with tremendous economic benefits overall. In the context of the shale gas reserves total which are estimated at 390 tcfs, there are two points that I would like to make. The first is that in terms of energy security it is estimated that the reserves that are available can meet our energy requirements for the next 310 years. That is significant. Secondly, in the context of job creation, they would create at least 850,000 jobs according to a report by Econometrix. The second point I would like to make is that as responsible citizens in this country, we need to really move away from emotion and alarmist statements that ultimately detract from our ability to focus on the risks in a sober minded manner and to ensure that those risks are appropriately attended. It is incumbent of all of us to do this in order that we end up at a place that is the correct conclusion. To my mind the fundamental issue here lies in the government creating a regulating framework that ensures the success of fracking in the Karoo which is done in a sustainable and responsible manner. The definition here for me as well is that monitoring shale gas fracking is ultimately what is important and should be what we are focusing on at all times.”

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


Decisive Debate

There’s a global alliance brewing


 

cartoon Rabbit

Visiting the US and Europe last year to receive the Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa I was struck by the lack of coordination amongst environmentally minded people (citizens) – on a global basis. The citizens of this planet need a central rallying point to communicate, share ideas, link to scientific and other data – a place where we can harness our collective strengths and resources – in a battle against the biggest, the most ruthless, the most determined corporates that have emerged since the Industrial Revolution and the advent of fossil fuels.

Launched in its infancy at a Goldman ceremony for the 2013 prize winners in Washington, April 2013, the idea of a global alliance has received support from most everyone polled. A proposed name (Global Citizens Alliance) with the strapline (for a sustainable planet) is being incorporated into a logo and will accompany a more formal launch.

In the meantime, here is a concept document – open to all citizens and sustainably minded organisations to comment. Comment from dissenting citizens and organisations is also welcomed as a way for us to shore up any weaknesses in our structure – your family, colleagues, friends and associates are after all, also citizens.

GLOBAL CITIZENS ALLIANCE for a sustainable planet                                                                  

(to join or for further enquiries: mail jonathan.deal@treasurethekaroo.co.za)                                                                                                                                        

Abstract

Sustainability is a word, a term, a concept that has been hi-jacked by commercial interests[1]. A commonly held definition of sustainability, and one that can be reasonably supported by the man in the street is suggested as:

  • the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.
  • The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.
  • To manage the activity of man on the planet in such a way that present generations may meet their reasonable expectations whilst assuring that future generations are not denied the opportunity or ability to meet theirs.

Ergo a sustainable planet implies and embraces all of the actions that humans can think of and cause to be done to adjust the relationship of man and the planet in a way that will enhance and support long-term ecological balance.

No anthropogenic activity is excluded from this initiative. GCA thus is accessible to everyone and belongs to no one.

The concept of a global alliance in environmental fields is certainly not novel. Yet despite the emergence of global communication, easily accessed in most countries by anyone with a computer or smart phone, and the certainty that this planet and all its inhabitants are headed for a brick wall, there is still a yawning chasm in global coordination of the groups and people (citizens) that have understood the need for true sustainability.

Background

My involvement commenced in January 2011 with shale gas mining (fracking/fraccing). It is logical then that I focus on issues related to fossil fuels and energy. Of course, the inescapable fact that every single activity on the planet occurs as a result of the balance of energy on the planet underscores that when one speaks of a sustainable planet no activity can be sidelined or excluded – from farming to concentrated solar power.

Tim Morgan[2], writes “In principle, there is no scientific difference between the energy that we derive from eating a biscuit, the energy we expend when we undertake a physical task, the energy that we put into a car when we fill up its fuel tank, or the energy that we access when we turn on an electric appliance.”  Morgan discusses the balance of energy on the planet, how it relates to the economy and how it can be measured in the concept of Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI).

Applying the measurement of EROEI to the available forms of energy is a useful and perhaps even indispensable way to measure what a specific fuel source actually returns for the energy that is expended on extracting and refining it, and of course the risk that accompanies its extraction.

Please read on to explore with me some of the issues that must be discussed to develop a sustainable global alliance – for ourselves and future citizens.

[1] Rather than abandoning the term to commercial interests, it is incumbent on civil rights organisations and environmental groupings to put commerce and industry to terms. To insist that the term be reserved for and applied to those activities that truly dovetail with  the notion of a sustainable planet.
[2] Morgan, Tim.   Life After Growth, 1st ed., Harriman House, Great Britain (2013). ISBN 9780857193391 (Pages 12, 13)
[3] Action item 1 – who will volunteer from what countries?

Do we need an alliance?

The oil and gas industry (read commerce) is a global giant. The same companies are our threat in every country. They have fought the battle of development-and-profit vs. environment for decades. For them, the planet is borderless, and no land or environment is sacred or out of bounds – and so our alliance has to be borderless too. If we fail to stand together as an international community for a sustainable planet, they will continue to use their immense and increasing power influence with governments to achieve their aims.

To what purpose this alliance?

Realistically speaking, every environment and sustainability-minded group on the planet is chasing the same donor pool. So there is no expectation that a global alliance will produce a global pot of money to fight global battles.

Where the alliance will be strong is in coordinated information, communication and action.

Information

A central point from where, let’s call them sustainable citizens can access data and links to data in any field of human activity – from organic farming to hydroelectric power, from statistics to environmental economics.

The information repository, like Wikipedia, will grow with the submissions of its readers and users.

It is important to emphasize that the development of such a platform will take time, and that the first level of web site will not accommodate such an undertaking. The first site may contain only a document such as this, a list of citizens and organisations who have subscribed to the GCA, and links to existing organisations that have already invested much capital in developing an information repository.

Bearing the concept of EROEI in mind, we too should be mindful of duplicating the expenditure of energy and resources when there is already a perfectly acceptable source available.

Communication and action

Common media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google) and of course proprietary email databases facilitate instantaneous communication within the GCA and to the outside world. One of the most powerful tools available to us, especially when facing down the commercial might and geopolitical influence of big business, is the ability to almost instantly:

  • Name and shame;
  • Call for product boycott;
  • Apply pressure to political leaders; and
  • Inform the general (uninformed) public.

Because of the global nature of many of the corporations and the technology that they wield, the coordinated power of the alliance means that we can coordinate resources (media, financial and social power) to respond to a call for assistance on a specific issue (Monsanto, Tar Sands, Keystone, Fracking New York State, Palm Oil Production, Whaling and so on) within hours – displaying international solidarity and bringing global pressure to governments and corporations.

The internet and media platforms also present the ability for us to communicate as a group with others, and to win supporters with scientific fact and commonsense.

To whom does the alliance belong?

The alliance belongs to everyone and to no one.

Who is in charge of the alliance?

No one is in charge of the alliance – it’s organic, like the Internet. You get out what you put in.

What can the alliance achieve in terms of:

  • Information – It can facilitate the distribution of source documents to established web sites, so that new members can access the most recent and factual data for distribution and use in their struggle.
  • News – It can send news of events and incidents to millions of people in a short space of time.
  • Support – it can harness the global voice of millions of people, at all levels and bring those voices to a small town to get the attention of political leaders and corporations.
  • Finances – it provides a platform for our fellows to call for urgent financial aid from many people in small amounts to help with funds to fight a specific step – such as an urgent court action.

Why not just start a new organization with a new name and everyone can join that?

  • Because our strength is in our diversity. It makes us unpredictable.
  • Because we all have our own organizational and national culture. Trying to force different organizations in different countries to subscribe to the same vision, mission and way of operation will be difficult. For example; an action-oriented organization that is effective in physical demonstrations cannot subscribe to the same action plan as a corporate-focused organization that engages corporations and government through traditional methods – yet both are essential to keep pressure on those who continue to propagate unsustainable practices.

Who can make statements on behalf the alliance?

There is only one statement that can be made on behalf of the alliance, and that is the global statement that everyone and anyone subscribes to. All other statements are made by citizens or organisations individually or on behalf of their own organisation.

 

It may transpire that a media-relations committee develops to serve the GCA, but this would not speak on behalf of any member organisation and rather issue generic statements of support referencing specific actions or issues that are in the public domain.

No statements or actions that contravene international laws or incite violence or criminal behaviour will be supported by the GCA.

How do we know how many member organizations there are in the alliance and how many individual members there are in each of the members?

We will need a central blog, website or other forum that can be accessed by anyone signing the alliance, either individually or on behalf of an organization. This is the aspect that will require some formal cooperation. It is suggested that a few national groups volunteer to each act as moderators of the chosen forum[3], so that records can be maintained and so that the forum has continuity.

What other information is available on the central site?

The site could have sections with various levels of information, divided into categories such as water, air pollution, economics, waste material, transport issues, bio-diversity, legal issues, a list of allies by region and country, links to specialists who are prepared to help, and so on.

Also presented could be ‘toolkits’ for members to use in their own environment – to inform citizens at all levels and ages.

The site could have clearly posted links to other sites anywhere that such information is available.

Does the alliance receive and control or disburse any money?

The alliance has no formal status and no bank account, owns no assets and cannot commit any or all of its members to anything – its strength is in the diversity and unified spirit of its members and in how much effort they put into growing the alliance over the net and other viral media.

If I join the alliance does it mean that my organization has to work under the alliance?

Absolutely not. The alliance is at all times secondary to the charter, rules, constitution, ethics and any other value of an individual or organization. It is this aspect that allows any one person or organization to join the alliance in a statement of global solidarity without losing their own identity, or being in a position that they are pulled into a specific action without voluntarily joining it.

So what will the alliance be called? And who will choose the name?

This most prickly issue is always emotional. As a start I suggest Global Citizens Alliance with the strapline for a sustainable planet. There will almost certainly be other suggestions, and I am prepared to abandon the work that I have done with the name and logo. Please bear in mind, when thinking of a name:

  • It must apply to the whole planet
  • It must fit everyone (individually and collectively)
  • It must fit every activity – anti-fracking to anti-whaling
  • It must contain no combination of colors or images that lock it to a specific gender, race, religion or creed.

Is there a suggested statement for the alliance?

Yes. Here is a rough draft. In the spirit of the alliance, all citizens are encouraged to comment, propose changes, additions and so on. For the purposes of making a start on this, Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) – admin@treasurethekaroo.co.za offers to receive and consolidate the first comments. The process can be requested by any other member – it does not belong to TKAG.

Here is a suggested statement in English. You are encouraged to translate it into your own language and all languages can be posted to the central forum that we use.

STATEMENT OF GLOBAL ALLIANCE

In respect of our collective sustainable environment and the rights of future generations

We, the undersigned, do hereby confirm our allegiance and support to each other, in working towards changing the activities of humans from the overwhelmingly destructive current practices to practices that support and foster the concept of sustainability in our common environment.

We are convinced, through scientific and legal data – empirical and peer-reviewed, in the fields of water, air pollution, health, environment and bio-diversity, economics, law, amongst other sciences and disciplines, and through our common sense of right and wrong that most of our energy generation:

  • Is based and founded on an unsustainable (rapidly depleting) fossil fuel resource;
  • Ignores the fact that national and global fossil fuel reserves are recorded as being in excess of the value that can actually be consumed (converted to carbon emissions) before the year 2050 with a view to the internationally adopted limit of 2° global warming;
  • Represents the established contemporary predisposition of the oil and gas industry (O&G) to pursue ‘extreme energy’ options, as easily accessible fossil fuel reserves are exhausted;
  • Through its marketing by O&G, and in reality, stifles, delays or otherwise militates against the essential development of and investment in ‘green’ energy technologies by governments and corporations;
  • Locks nations and economies – developed and undeveloped – into a further dependence on fossil fuels;
  • Directly damages the holistic environment through documented knock-on effects;
  • Displaces otherwise sustainable human activity, impairs the value of the environment and renders less effective – or destroys – the eco-system services, (those systems) which sustain all life on Earth – that are provided by a functioning eco-system;
  • Creates additional and unplanned expenditure of public funds to restore roads, and maintain public health, conduct investigation, monitor extraction activity, enforce the law, prosecute offenders and generally provide other services from the state with public taxes;
  • Can and should be disregarded as an energy source on the basis that there exist documented reserves of alternative fossil fuels that are comparable in energy and pollution values, having regard for the global limits that have been reached in respect of the emissions of carbon based fuels and the survival of future generations.

Therefore, it is our position that we shall apply the resources at our disposal to:

  • Inform the citizens of this planet of the risks to their future prosperity posed by unsustainable practices;
  • Coordinate and expand, wherever possible and affordable, a global network of persons and organisations opposed to unsustainable practices;
  • Support each other in whatever way possible and within the credo and objects of our organisation(s) or personal value system(s).

These actions will give effect to our fundamental objective of opposing any activity that promotes or in any way fosters the propagation of unsustainable practices.

Where any commitment to or aspect of this allegiance may be contrary to (any of) the provisions of the member organisations hereto, then that aspect is specifically excluded from this statement of allegiance.

By our collective / individual signature(s) we confirm our voluntary commitment to this allegiance.

Signed at _____________________________________________________________________

On day _________ , date ____ , month ____________________ , year ___________

In my personal capacity _________________________________ (signature)

Or

On behalf of ________________________________________________________ (organisation)

Duly authorised

ORGANISATION / INDIVIDUAL DETAILS:

Address:______________________________________________________________

Email and/or URL :______________________________________________________

Telephone, fax and zip code:______________________________________________

Name of signatory:_____________________________________________________

 

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

 

Western Cape Wind Energy completed on time and in budget


First REIPPP wind farm in commercial operation

Hopefield, Western Cape, 10 February 2014: A major milestone for the South African wind energy industry was reached last week on 1 February 2014 when Hopefield Wind Farm achieved its Commercial Operation Date (COD) – the first REIPPPP wind project to do so.

Situated 5km southeast of Hopefield in the Western Cape, the wind farm comprises 37 wind turbines with an aggregate capacity of 66MW. Construction began in late 2012 and was completed on schedule and to budget.

Umoya Energy (the Cape Town-based owner and developer) was awarded a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in Round One of the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) which is promoting the development of renewable energy projects throughout the country.

Hopefield Wind farm will generate enough electricity to power approximately 70,000 low-income homes or 29,000 medium-income homes. To produce the same amount of electricity, an average South African coal-fired power station would emit approximately 195,000 tons of CO2 every year.

Avoiding these CO2 emissions is equivalent to taking over 40,000 cars off the road.

A significant number of jobs have already been created by the project. During construction phase more than 300 people were employed from the local area alone. In addition, opportunities are being created for local suppliers and service providers, which will continue throughout the project’s 20 year life.

Vestas Southern Africa, supported by key electrical sub-contractors Conco, and civil engineering contractors Power Westland JV, is the EPC contractor responsible for wind turbine supply and wind farm construction, as well as operation and maintenance for the first 15 years. The company has recruited full-time operations personnel in the Western Cape who are undergoing training to operate and maintain this wind farm and others in the region.

The Hopefield Wind Farm Local Community Company (a Section 21 not-for-profit company that owns 5% of the wind farm) will channel Enterprise Development and Socio-Economic Development funding from the project over its 20 year life into the local community and administer various initiatives designed to benefit the community and foster education, particularly in regard to maths and science, the environment and sustainability. The first project to be commenced in 2014 will be to provide insulation improvements and solar geysers to economically disadvantaged families in Hopefield.

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.