SHELL and the Government should look at new “waterless” methods of extracting shale gas before making a decision on exploiting the natural gas reserves locked up under the Karoo, says the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Hydraulic fracking which uses large amounts of water and chemicals has come in for a great deal of criticism from environmentalists. It has even created a serious risk of conflict between the green lobby and big business and we should try to avoid this,” said Mr Michael Bagraim, President of the Chamber.
He explained that “waterless” or “dry fracking” used LPG in gel form to crack the shale and release the gas. In the process the gel was turned back into gas which was then recovered with the released natural gas.
“One of the concerns about hydraulic fracking is that huge quantities of water have to be used and this is a major problem in the Karoo. A new dam on the Gariep River and a pipeline have been proposed while the alternative is to truck in water by tanker.
“In both cases big, noisy civil engineering projects would be involved and there would also be the problem of recycling the water and dealing with the inevitable waste sediment,” Mr Bagraim said.
“Dry fracking” eliminated many of these problems and could prove to be more acceptable to people concerned about the environment. “It might cost more to use LPG but if the resource is as big as geologists believe, it could be worth the extra cost. A clean and viable process is what we would all like to see,” Mr Bagraim said.
He said there was no mystery about dry fracking and he was surprised that there was so little discussion about the alternative process.
Hydraulic fracking was the most widely used method of recovering shale gas and the one that most oil companies were familiar with but “dry fracking” might well prove to be the best method for the Karoo and it was important to investigate this option before any major decisions were taken.
“It might be the compromise we would all like to see but we won’t know unless we examine this option. When we have all the information on the table it will be the time to make a decision,” Mr Bagraim said.