Don’t Frack With Our Karoo

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 07 March 2011

By: PC Baker

I am sure that many of you have seen and read a lot about this proposed programme; it has been well reported in the press as well as on the news services. Johan Rupert, a Karooster himself has joined the forces mobilizing against this operation which has given the campaign a big boost….”Rupert vs. Shell”.

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There have been public meetings held throughout the Karoo and in PE as well as Cape Town. The momentum is increasing to force Shell to abandon this exploration and possible drilling.

But why should we be against something which will bring clean natural gas into our energy grid and jobs to our people in the Karoo, the most destitute and hopeless in the country? Surely it can only be a good thing for all concerned?

The facts of the matter are unfortunately contrary to popular belief  and the notion of gas being clean, and an environmentally safe energy source is not anywhere near the truth.

In order to get to the potentially gas bearing layers deep within the bowels of the earth’s crust, wells must be drilled down to levels between 2  and 5 kilometres! That’s very deep and these wells therefore have to pass through the water bearing strata of rock or aquifers; both farmers and villagers in the Karoo depend on these aquifers for their drinking and farming water. The Karoo is a desert and water is one of our most precious resources. As the planet earth gets warmer and warmer, we are expecting to see an average temperature increase in the Karoo of 6-7deg C over the next 50 years. More heat: more evaporation from surface water reserves; plain and simple. Ground water will become a more and more important commodity to look after if we and our children are to survive.

Now going back to the drilling; it is very complicated and a highly technical operation involving the pumping of enormous quantities of water, measured in cubic kilometres… trillions of litre quantities! And that water will be not only taken from our underground reserves but will be mixed with a bunch of chemicals which you thought were only seen in brown bottles with a big skull  and cross bones on the label; things like benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), diesel fuel, naphthalene (moth balls) compounds, boric acid, arsenic, poly nuclear organic hydrocarbons, only to name a few of the some 500 chemicals used  (Shell calls them ”additives” only, so be careful when you see that term.) and this mix of poison  and your water will then be pumped down the well under huge unimaginable pressure in a process called “fracking” which is supposed to cause the natural gas held in the layers of shale, to be released and permitted to be pumped up to the surface.

When you look at the depths involved to get to the gas and the chemical poisons required to release the gas and the human  and mechanical error factors (the BP oil blow out in the Gulf of Mexico  was a combination of the two!), and the fact that the gas is invisible and has no smell or colour, certainly anyone can see that the Karoo would be insane not to oppose the application by Shell to explore (even the act of sinking exploratory wells is as dangerous to the environment as the actual pumping of gas, if it is found in commercially viable quantities) for gas in the Karoo.

And then you have the not so insignificant matter of disposing of billions of litres of highly contaminated water. Can we send it to Royal Dutch Shell in Holland? Not on your life baby shoes; it will be stored in large plastic lined cement sedimentation ponds right in our Karoo, to evaporate the volatile chemicals into the atmosphere, so that we can inhale them into our lungs. It might make our Karoo smell like a college chemistry lab. And nothing lasts forever in the relentless Karoo sun, so the lining of the ponds will certainly crack and leak into the ground and contaminate surface water supplies. And never mind the risk of those flash floods in the Karoo. It only gets worse!

If you are concerned please register on the Fracking website

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