KAROO GAS: A Fracking Solution
Recent Western Cape Business News
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. We should try to avoid this,” says Michael Bagraim, president of the chamber.
He explains that ‘waterless’ or ‘dry fracking’ uses LPG in gel form to crack the shale and release the gas. In the process the gel is turned back into gas which is 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,” Bagraim says.
‘Dry fracking’ eliminates 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,” Bagraim says.
He says there is no mystery about dry fracking and he is surprised that there is so little discussion about the alternative process.
Hydraulic fracking is the most widely used method of recovering shale gas and the one that most oil companies are familiar with but ‘dry fracking’ might well prove to be the best method for the Karoo. It is important to investigate this option before any major decisions are taken, he advises.
“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.”
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