Shell oil is currently applying for shale gas exploration licences in the Karoo of South Africa, but the extraction of shale gas poses massive threats to both ground and surface water, and is very water intensive. Drilling for the fossil fuel natural gas is ramping up in the ecologically precious Karoo desert ecosystem of South Africa. Petrochemical groups Royal Dutch Shell, Sasol, Anglo American, Falcon Oil and Gas, and Bundu Oil and Gas are among those exploring shale gas fracking in the region. Royal Dutch Shell is leading the pack seeking exploration rights to 90,000 sq km (34,750 sq miles). Shell is compiling an Environmental Management Plan, carrying out some rough public consultations, and has submitted its application to explore for shale gas to the Petroleum Agency South Africa (PASA), who is expected to make a decision during 2011 whether to award the initial three year exploration rights.
The Karoo is a semi-desert region stretching along the Atlantic coast of southwestern South Africa into southern Namibia and consists primarily of winter rainfall desert. The Succulent Karoo plant communities are some of the most remarkable in the world; boasting the richest succulent flora (like the Yucca plant, water inside of leaf) o nEearth, as well as a remarkable 69 % endemism in plants. Succulent Karoo is a biodiversity hotspot (one of only two arid ecosystems), providing habitat home to rare wildlife species such as the mountain zebra and riverine rabbit. Reptiles, tortoises and scorpions also show relatively high levels of biodiversity richness in the region.
From a geological point of view the Karoo is ancient, making it globally renowned for its fantastic wealth of fossil material, and resulting in a unique system of ancient, non-replenishing aquifer water dating back as far as 300 millions of years in age. Fracking will require large quantities of this water, and almost certainly lead to its contamination from stored vast amounts of flammable, potentially toxic drilling mud in dams close to each drilling site. Karoo Karoo farmers are particularly worried about the large quantities of water - as much as 20 million litres for a single well - required for the fracking process. With Shell planning to drill down 4 kilometres and more, the boreholes constructed must be 100%, or there will be contamination between aquifer systems. The potential for contamination of groundwater by methane gas and the chemicals used during fracking is significant and potentially environmentally devastating.
Fracking injects millions of gallons of highly pressurized water and an unknown cocktail of toxic chemicals deep underground to break rocks that release natural gas. This causes ground water contamination, as gases, chemicals and even radioactivity flow to the surface. Some 4 million gallons of water are used to frack a well once, which may be fracked up to 18 times. For each frack, some 200 tons of chemicals may be used, creating huge volumes of toxic, caustic and potentially radioactive liquid waste byproducts. The industry refuses to publicly disclose the specific fluids used though it is believed to include kerosene, benzene, formaldehyde and even diesel gasoline. New science shows shale gas fracking equally damaging to climate as other fossil fuels including coal.
The local Climate Justice Campaign (CJC) and many other South African affinity groups and facebook pages support the view that shale gas, obtained through hydraulic fracturing, is not a greener alternative, or a bridging fuel to green technology. Shale gas is still a fossil fuel, with a greenhouse gas footprint as least as big as coal, with devastating effects on global warming especially in the short term, and delaying investment and development of renewable sources of energy with far greater public benefits. The local movement and many in affinity around the world call for a ban upon the exploration and exploitation of natural gas in South Africa and for Royal Dutch Shell and other African companies to not frack the Karoo. CJC has been protesting against South Africa’s shale gas industry at their conference held from 18 – 21 July 2011.
This Ecological Internet email protest alert is in affinity South Africa fracking protestors, and continues our work with many for a Global Fracking ban. It is simply wrong to blow up the Earth destroying scarce water for limited energy with no climate benefits as claimed. The anti-fracking movement is taking off worldwide - resisting industry, government and big NGO greenwash. Fracking must not be allowed to expand into South Africa or anywhere without heavy regulation, if at all. The human family must not allow every last ecosystem to be destroyed before we transition from unsustainable energy use to 100% truly renewable energy and dramatic efficiency and conservation.
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Karoo succulent desert ecosystem with intact water aquifers is priceless, far more valuable that fossil fuel fracking
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