Joburg fracking talks protest plan

Pretoria – The environmental lobby group Climate Justice Campaign (CJC) plans to protest at next week’s conference in Johannesburg on shale gas extraction, it said on Wednesday.

The conference was heavily skewed in favour of the industry with little representation from environmental groups, it claimed in a statement.

The Shale Gas South Africa conference is being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosebank from Monday until next Thursday.

It is understood that the process, benefits and risks associated with shale gas mining in South Africa will be on the agenda, and that Shell will make a presentation on its Karoo Project.

The speakers are thought to include SA Oil and Gas Alliance CEO Warwick Blyth, Shell Oil Products Africa chair Bonang Mohale, Standard Bank energy, utilities, and infrastructure head Paul Eardley-Taylor, and Breitling Oil and Gas, United States, CEO Chris Faulkner.

CJC was protesting at the conference to ensure there was an anti-fracking presence there and to voice the concerns of the public, CJC co-ordinator Marina Louw in a statement.

She said the public was largely being prohibited from attending the conference, because of the exorbitant attendance fees.

These were clearly aimed at limiting the conference to only industry and government.

Hydraulic fracturing

Shale gas fracking is the common term for hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping a pressurised mixture of water, sand and chemicals down drill holes to fracture shale and release natural gas.

Louw said the CJC supported the view of many environmental justice groups, that shale gas obtained through hydraulic fracturing was not a greener alternative or a bridging fuel to green technology.

“Shale gas is still a fossil fuel, with a [greenhouse gas] footprint as least as big as coal, with devastating effects on global warming especially in the short term, and delaying investment and development of renewable sources of energy with far greater public benefits,” she said.

The conference will explore topics like “shale gas as middle ground between fossil fuel and green technology” and “the shale gas potential of the Karoo basin”.

Louw criticised the fossil fuel industry lobbyists “aggressively” promoting shale gas to the government as an alternative South African energy source.

“Many of their claims are misleading propaganda and do not reflect the truth about gas drilling, using the technique of hydraulic fracturing or fracking”

Last week, the Advertising Standards Authority ordered Shell to withdraw “unsubstantiated” and “misleading” claims made in full-page advertisements in several newspapers, about its aim to use the controversial gas extraction technique in the Karoo.

The Treasure the Karoo Action Group brought the complaint against Shell and has vowed to stop all proposals to do fracking in the Karoo.

Shell said the advert was intended to make the public aware of the company’s understanding.

Many people, including lobby groups are up in arms against shale gas fracking because of its likely impact on ground water supplies.

The process uses large quantities of water mixed with toxic chemicals.

The Cabinet has endorsed a decision by the department of mineral resources to impose a moratorium on all fracking applications.

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