Gauteng and NW Province

Fracking report runs into flak

A recent study favouring the exploitation of Karoo shale gas has opponents as well as backers


The battle for the Karoo is heating up in the wake of this month’s Shell-funded Econometrix report that suggested exploitation shale gas will bring R200-billion to the economy and create 850 000 jobs.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) called it a “speculative report” with “questionable assumptions”.

“WWF’s analysis indicates that the study is not scientifically rigorous in that it presents only the most optimistic case for shale-gas extraction, downplaying less encouraging scenarios and thereby compromising the results of the study,” said the environmental group in a statement.

The WWF was particularly sceptical about the assumptions regarding the shale gas resource used by Econometrix.

According to WWF-SA Living Planet Unit head Saliem Fakir, the study’s “overestimation” of the productivity of the Karoo shale-gas resources and viability “placed the report’s projections of economic turnover and job prospects on shaky ground”.

Jonathan Dean of the Treausre Karoo Action Group said the report overstated the potential benefits of shale gas.

“Nowhere is there a reference to jobs that may be lost due to mining activity. The study lists knock-on benefits, but does not attempt to quantify the knock-on costs to South Africans – relating to all damaged road infrastructure, health remediation costs, pollution remediation and environmental monitoring and enforcement of standards.”

Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Professor Phillip Lloyd said gas-powered stations were “a no-brainer” for a country like South Africa where there was an undersupply of gas and pent-up demand for commodity.

“Gas-fired power stations are the quickest and cheapest to build. On top of that, gas is currently the cheapest energy source. This means that gas-fuelled power stations would be ideal to plug the energy gap in the country. At the current prising I would go as far as saying shale gas is ever commercially exploited in the Karoo, this would threaten the country’s ambitious nuclear programme.”

SUNDAY TIMES March 25 2012

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