Moratorium lifted on fracking

Jan Willem Egginck of Shell has urged responsible fracking in the Karoo. (Shell)

With the Cabinet’s lifting of a moratorium on fracking in the Karoo on Friday, companies should act responsibly and ensure that the environment is protected, an oil and gas firm has insisted.

Royal Dutch Shell is one of the companies that have applied to do hydraulic fracturing in the Karoo in the hopes of exploiting gas reserves.

“The risk of ground water contamination; I always split it in three: There are risks from the top, that is you drop a barrel of diesel on the ground. It may filter to the water; obviously we will avoid it as best as we can; we’re a high standard operator,” Jan Willem Egginck, Upstream (Exploration) Shell South Africa told News24.

“The risk from contamination from deeper down are twofold: You have the risk from the chemicals, and the risk of that happening as far as I know is actually very close to zero or zero because it has not been seen in the world yet,” said Egginck.

Environmentalists have condemned fracking because of fears that it will pollute ground water and in an area like the Karoo, water scarcity is more acute than in urban centres.

Risk

A University of the Free State professor said that companies should be careful about water pollution with regard to fracking.

“This is serious stuff. There will be trouble, and Shell and the other companies involved must take note,” said Professor Gerrit van Tonder.

In Tioga county in the US state of New York, fracking was blamed for methane water pollution but investigators found that the wells drilled for shale gas were too close to the water wells at 370m, rather than the typical 2km in depth where shale gas is found.

Shell said that the risk was minimal and that the said it was committed to open discussion about the environment related to the effect of fracking.

Egginck said that companies should plan for all eventualities.

“I cannot rule out that an incident will not occur because I don’t think we should. We should be honest: This is an industry where incidents may occur. I always say good operators like Shell have a plan in case an incident happens; bad operators have no plan: They run into a problem and then they don’t know what to do.”

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