Thursday, July 14, 2011

Royal Dutch Shell to be tasked over fracking at shale gas conference

A senior Shell General manager Jan-Willem Eggink, will be confronted over Shell's plans to frack for shale gas in the Karoo when he speaks at a conference in Johannesburg next week.

Shell's proposals to use hydraulic fracturing (fracking) will be challenged by Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) and other concerned organizations at the 2011 Africa Gas and LNG Summit in Johannesburg on 19 - 22 July.

Eggink is expected to champion his company's continued pursuit of the right to use hydraulic fracturing technology despite the South African government's moratorium on its use.

Fracking is controversial: France has banned it completely while the US Senate has requested the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to re-investigate the environmental and social impacts of the technology. The EPA report is expected in 2012.

TKAG Chairman Jonathan Deal - who will attend the Santon conference to confront Shell in a public forum - said that fracking technology needs a rigorous evaluation that takes into account a number of technical, environmental, social, cultural and economic considerations.

"This form of fracking —
horizontal fracking — is relatively new. Shell cannot state categorically that its action will not have a deleterious impact on the Karoo's fragile underground water supplies because they simply do not know. The decision to frack is irreversible — if damage occurs, it cannot be undone."

Deal said that Shell needs to understand that its actions could irrevocably damage the Karoo. He recently met with Vuyisile Booysen, Chairman of the Karoo Shale Gas Forum (KSGF), the mandated representatives of the local Karoo community, and the two parties have agreed to approach the issue of fracking in a spirit of "mutual co-operation".

"We intend to work with KSGF to investigate these issues on behalf of all the people of the Karoo, too make sure that the voice of the community is heard and that the future of their children are not threatened," said Deal.

"There have been too many examples of environmental degradation and social health issues linked to areas where fracking has occurred," said Deal. "We cannot just rush into this. If Shell and other oil and gas companies are granted licences to explore or to produce without a comprehensive cost vs benefit evaluation of fracking's affect, we could face a social and environmental disaster that would devastate the Karoo and its people."

TKAG has asked that the Department of Energy take the EPA's report into account and has requested that the Department make public the committee members' names appointed to examine the impact of fracking. It also requests that the committee includes experts from the Departments of Water and the Environment.

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