FRACKING should not be considered in water-stressed areas such as the Karoo‚ UK special representative on climate change Sir David King says.
President Jacob Zuma told parliament in his state of the nation address that the development of shale gas could be a “game changer” for South Africa’s economy.
The government is expected to publish final regulations for hydraulic fracturing next month.
The UK is fracking its shale gas reserves. South Africa is estimated to have large gas resources‚ although the reserves have not been proven.
Sir David said on Wednesday the chemicals used and water contaminated with radioactive particles and chemicals‚ which pollute groundwater‚ created too much risk for water-stressed areas.
The government acknowledges South Africa is water-stressed, a point also made in its National Development Plan.
Projections are South Africa could run out of water by 2025. More than 95% of available fresh water had already been allocated by 2005.
But head of the University of the Witwatersrand’s school of geosciences‚ Roger Gibson‚ said using fracking to extract gas in the Karoo should not be rejected out of hand. South Africa needed to know more about the Karoo’s specific geology before making a final decision.
Frost and Sullivan energy and power Africa unit leader Cornelis van der Waal said South Africa had “to look at this resource. We really need to get it confirmed and‚ if there is a need‚ find a solution (to the difficulties of fracking in the Karoo).”
He said shale gas in the Karoo could give South Africa energy independence‚ freeing it from coal and “expensive imported crude”.
The gas and renewables industries “work together well” because a gas-fired power station provided baseload power – something renewables were not yet able to do – that could be easily switched on and off as needed. Coal-fired power stations took 24 hours to fire up.
Gibson said the Karoo held shallow aquifers generally used as water sources for farming and other human activities‚ and fracking was only used to extract gas from deep pockets of shale. “We need to know how well they communicate [the deep pockets of shale and the shallow aquifers] naturally‚ and how well they communicate when we mess with the system.” – Sue Blaine, BDlive