Over the next two weeks Karoo residents will be able to find out exactly where and how oil companies plan to frack.
Two of the three companies who have applied for exploration rights in the Karoo will host public meetings in the affected towns as part of the companies’ revised environmental management programmes (EMP) to explore for shale gas.
Last year it was announced in parliament that new exploration regulations would be published by the Department of Mineral Resources early this year, while exploration for shale gas in the Karoo could start as soon as August.
Before this can happen, however, consultations with affected communities and the reprocessing and approval of exploration licence applications would need to take place. The three companies which applied for licences are Shell, Falcon Oil and Gas (in partnership with Chevron) and Bundu Gas and Oil Exploration (which is the South African subsidiary of Australian unconventional gas explorer Challenger Energy).
While some anti-fracking lobbyist see the public meetings as a mere “box- ticking exercise”, Treasure Karoo Action Group director of operations Jeanie Le Roux said as many people as possible should attend the meetings to be informed and make their concerns heard.
Wording in the advertisements for the public meetings, placed in local media and on a website, as well as a letter to landowners in the affected area dated December 8, last year have been generalised by Bundu, stating that the exploration right was for “petroleum”. It is felt that this could be deceptive.
Le Roux said part of the revision of the EMRs was to actually update documentation to take out referencing to fracking and to make use of very neutral language.
“Petroleum is a collective noun for all gas, oil, and hydrocarbons. And in the case of Falcon, the drilling and seismic studies are part of a bigger plan to explore for shale gas,” Le Roux said.
Both Falcon and Bundu’s revised EMPs and record of consultations undertaken must be submitted to the Petroleum Agency South Africa before February 27.
Next week, Bundu will host an open day and public meeting in the Pearston Town Hall over a two-day period.
From Monday nine Falcon public meetings will start in various affected towns.
However the third game player, Shell, said this week it would not at this stage hold any public meetings.
Shell South Africa Upstream communications manager Janine le Roux said Shell should be expected to play by the same rules as the other applicants, but it may be that they have held off on public meetings because of the timeframe given to them by the department, since Shell applied for exploration rights after Bundu and Falcon.
The southern main Karoo Basin is considered to be the best prospective area for shale gas in South Africa, due to the presence of black shales.
However, the volume of gas and its commercial viability can only be determined by exploration.
Eastern Cape Falcon Public Meetings:
Aberdeen – Library Hall, Andries Pretorius Street on Friday, February 6 from 2.30pm
Jansenville – Mohair Hall, Kroggscheepers Street on Saturday, February 7 from 11am
Rietbron – NG Church Hall, Piet Retief Street on Monday, February 9 from 4pm Bundu Public Meeting: Pearston – Pearston Town Hall, Corner of Voortrekker Street and Kerk Street, on Friday, February 13