The NYT final story of 2011 on shale is a bit worrying.  Shale goes international and Ian Urbina's exaggeration and mis-information follows.

 South Africa is among the growing number of countries that want to unlock previously inaccessible natural gas reserves trapped in shale deep underground. The drilling technology — hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” for short — holds the promise of generating new revenue through taxes on the gas, creating thousands of jobs for one of the country’s poorest regions, and fueling power plants to provide electricity to roughly 10 million South Africans who live without it.

I'm not South African, but permit me to ask a question:  Where were all these (white) farmers protests during the battle against apartheid?

 I have done several posts here on SA shale that point out that something stinks here.  Landowners like Princess Irene of the Netherlands and the richest guy in South Africa Johann Rupert are fighting shale and they have deep pockets.

Meanwhile the Times, which has published positive piece on international shale before, accentuates the negative this time around.

 Shale gas in Poland may represent more than a third of the natural gas resources in Europe, according to energy experts, and could help the country reduce its dependence on Russia, which now supplies about 60 percent of Poland’s gas.

 But an April 2010 report by Bernstein Research, a market research group, raised concerns about the costs and risks of shale gas drilling because Poland is so densely populated, dependent on agriculture and farmers will have to compete with drillers for water.

“Europe and some of the countries with shale potential have significantly less renewable water resources than the U.S.,” the report warned.

Bernstein strikes again.  I've answered their objections to shale plenty of times before, most recently here.  

Bernstein's take is to protect the larger amount of money in Gazprom and other investments. Follow the money, in South Africa and elsewhere.






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  • Louis

    Nick<br /><br />I was a first-hand witness to the public hearings Shell held across the Karoo last year and it was blatantly obvious that the opposition is largely driven by rich privileged white land owners and Eco tourism operators. Whenever the hearings included a large non- white audience, such as in Beaufort West or Port Elizabeth, there was huge support for shale gas development (done responsibly). <br /><br />The owners want nothing to disrupt the near indentured servitude that the vast majority of the Karoo residents face - working as farm laborers. <br /><br />And speaking of hypocrisy...These same farmers will happily dip their sheep in insecticides and fungicides several times year then pour the dip out on the ground. That stuff is scary poisonous. And they use millions upon millions of liters of it.

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  • Even worse than I thought. Seem's strange that the liberal white Cape supporters of the Democratic Alliance also seem to think of shale as an environment issue instead of an economic development one.<br />Thanks for sharing this send me any more on this at any time.

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  • Andrew

    In reply to: Louis

    Don't spread malicious crap that you have no knowledge, on farmers dip mostly once a year and most use a pouricide which is applied directly to the animal.<br />Funny how at the meetings I attended everyone was against fracking across all colour lines funny how the mayors of the affected areas(ANC and non white) have just given Shell a roasting.<br />If we must drag up the apartheid past ask Shell how complicit they were in propping up the Apartheid government and the murder of community activists in the Niger Delta.

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  • bobby b

    "[I]But an April 2010 report by Bernstein Research, a market research group, raised concerns about the costs and risks of shale gas drilling . . . "[/I]<br /><br />A "market research group"? They take a poll?<br /><br />That might give a measure of how successful the NYT has been in attempting to scare people about the process, but it won't tell us a thing about how risky it really is.<br /><br />If you run five stories on five consecutive days entitled "neighbors wonder if John Smith might be a pedophile", and then take a poll of the readership asking the question "is John Smith a pedophile?," chances are high that there will be more "yes" responses than if you ran the poll without the stories.

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  • Bernstein are more accurately described as financial market research. They have a history over the years of being sceptical on shale and wrong about it. They are consistent at least.

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  • Loius

    What a biased opinion of the situation in South Africa. The Karoo is a pristine and ancient desert reliant on aquifers. Drought stress is an issue. Groundwater and hydrology is not properly mapped. Public consultation and information is lacking. The process of exploration and production emits air pollution unprecedented by conventional gas and oil. The high pressure hydraulic fracturing has not been proved to not result in occasional loss of well integrity. The people need more information regardless of race and income. <br /><br />The area in question is by no means the most depraved in South Africa and industrialisation impact on agriculture, game farms and tourism is obviously a concern if it is the mainstay of their existence and they do not have the technical skills to benefit economically from the few well paid jobs.

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  • striebs

    In reply to: Loius

    I take your point that Groundwater and hydrology need to be mapped before widescale hydrocarbon development occurs .<br /><br />Baseline water purity measurements need to be established so that you know whether anything changes due to hydrocarbon exploration and whether it's serious enough to warrant action .<br /><br />AFAIK , the exploration licenses were only issued last year , there would not seem to have been much opportunity for consultation .<br /><br />In various parts of the US such as those close to metropolitan areas operators are required to perform a "green completion" by capturing gasses emitted during the fracturing process .<br /><br />OK it is an election year but the American's claim 600,000 direct and indirect jobs as a result of shale development .<br /><br />I have read that energy intensive industries have had to halt proceedings because of power outages and that Eskom have had to ration power .<br /><br />I don't think it is possible very often to prove a negative ; that something won't ever happen which is possibly why that criteria is not applied to many activities .<br /><br />Would love to visit Africa one day . The pictures I've seen of the Karoo are totally amazing , unique and warranting protection .<br /><br />Louis , what is your opinion ?<br />- Ban it outright and if so what alternative sources of energy do you propose to use ?<br />Or<br />- Carry out a pilot and monitor it closely ?

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  • loius

    In reply to: striebs

    Eskom had the monopoly over energy for as long as I can remember. Dividents shareholders but no investment in infrastructure. Heavy industry needs to modernise reduce energy use EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). <br /><br />Sufficient low risk low carbon technology exists. If China uses coal so can SA <br />My opinion on whether to ban or monitor a test well. Does SA have the capacity to monitor sufficiently. <br />Carry out a pilot and monitor closely. What monitor and how long. Well lifetime 10-30 years, traffic peak during exploration with 90% traffic re visiting every re stimulation or 3/4 years. Combined with frac pumps, compressors, line heaters, glycol dehydrators unavoidable. >2000 trucks/well. <br />Air pollution impacts are cumulative. 200000 -1000000 wells irriversable change in habitats. Ozone damage to plants, smog, ground level ozone, oxide of nitrogen acidification, particulate matter, human health impacts. These impacts can be inaccurately modelled however who will do this, how long does it take and where are the funds.<br />Green completion depends on a pipeline/ trucking to refinery. This is for flaring. It wont happen in SA due to lack of infrastructure. Why would you build a pipeline to a remote test site if not sure of gas yield. <br />Sources of groundwater contamination are failure of the cement casing, unforeseen rock fractures, accidental spills transport, drilling, storage. <br />“signature chemicals” associated with gas well activity/waste fluids, pH, alkalinity, turbidity, total suspended solids, total dissolved solids, chloride, conductivity, MBAS (detergents), chemical oxygen demand, total hardness, calcium, barium, strontium, arsenic, iron, manganese, methane, volatile organic compounds including BTEX, and gross alpha and beta radioactivity. Wastewater treatment facilities? 70-90% methane migrating up wellbore within the next few hundred years. Infrastructure to deliver gas to powerstations in SA is lacking. Does it all get sent to a few new LNG terminals then shipped to India /China for higher price. South Africa is putting a tender in for 6 Nuclear power plants. Adittionally uranium mining and processing in the Karoo. Johannesburg has areas worse than exclusion zone around chernobel. Acid mine drainage. The people scared as government can not deliver the environmental protection. Habitat fragmentation and long term impacts on Biomes can not be monitored on a test well.<br /><br />US Geological Survey and Federation of Scientists are warning New York to not permit Shale Production. It is being permitted in UK at present, everyone uses gas and the public are not particularly aware of the situation. South Africa is predominantly arid with water shortages, food security issues and highly sensitive to temperature rise. The Karoo was an inland sea surrounded by mountains with the sea draining and fossils remaining in abundance. The species of fauna and flora are highly specialised, the air is clean and the stars appear closer than you would imagine

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