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Shell will disclose chemicals used to extract shale gas

OIL company Shell will publicly disclose the names of chemicals to be used in the planned shale gas hydraulic fracturing in the Karoo

Published: 2011/07/20 07:44:11 AM

OIL company Shell will publicly disclose the names of chemicals to be used in the planned shale gas hydraulic fracturing in the Karoo, Shell SA Upstream GM Jan-Willem Eggink said yesterday.

The move by the company is meant to allay fears that hydraulic fracturing or fracking would lead to groundwater contamination in the water-scarce area.

Farmers, landowners and residents of the Karoo have come out against Shell and other companies’ plans to extract shale gas in the area, citing the negative environmental effects of fracking .

Fracking is a method of exploiting shale gas by pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the rock formations at high pressure.

Speaking at a conference on shale gas in Johannesburg, Mr Eggink said Shell would not compete with the people of the Karoo “for their water needs”. “Nobody will go short of fresh water because of our operations,” he said.

Mr Eggink said that at each drilling location Shell would disclose the fracturing fluids used . “The key challenge in the Karoo is access to water, not hydraulic fracturing or possible spills,” he said.

Shell’s possible water sources were deep-level saline water, surface water, municipal waste water and sea water, Mr Eggink said.

According to an environmental management plan submitted by Shell Exploration Company, a Shell subsidiary, to the Petroleum Agency of SA (Pasa) as part of its application for exploration rights, Shell intends to explore for shale gas in an area of about 30000km2 .

In terms of the plan, Shell said the exploration activities would include drilling up to eight exploration wells and engaging in hydraulic fracturing. “Fracturing would only be performed if hydrocarbons are found following the drilling of an exploration well,” the company said.

The conference has further exposed contrasting opinions on shale gas. Karoo communities remain steadfast in their opposition to plans to extract it in the area.

Karoo resident and lawyer Derek Light yesterday accused Shell of failing to consult with Karoo residents on its plans. “We have appealed to industry and government to allow for proper engagement,” he said.

Other companies with plans to extract gas from the Karoo include Sasol , which is in a joint venture with Norway’s Statoil and the US’s Chesapeake Energy Corporation. Pasa granted the joint venture a permit to prospect for shale gas last year.

Mr Light accused companies that intend to extract shale gas from the Karoo of rushing the application process “with indecent haste”.

“We have been saying do not rush this process,” he said.

But NT Energy Africa MD Chris Mumby said: “We need to debate all variables (but) what is happening is that industry is shut down even before it has opened its mouth.” He said engineers should play a prominent role in the fracking debate.

Earlier this year, the Department of Mineral Resources declared a moratorium on oil and gas exploration licences in the Karoo while a task team investigates the implications of fracking.

Spokesman Bheki Khumalo said on Monday that the task team would report to Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu soon.

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