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Stefan Cramer CCS Seminar on Karoo fracking, 7 October

Title:Six Reasons Why the Karoo Will Not Be Fracked ... if reasons prevails
Date: Tuesday, 7 October 2014
Time: 12:00-1pm
Venue: CCS Seminar Room, 6th floor of Memorial Tower Building, UKZN Howard College
Presenter: Dr. Stefan Cramer

Dr. Stefan Cramer is a semi-retired hydrogeologist from Germany, living in
Graaff-Reinet as a science advisor to the Southern African Faith
Communities’ Environment Institute in Cape Town. He studies the particular
risks to groundwater contamination from shale gas developments in the Karoo and advises local communities on the science and technology of “fracking”.


Fracking plan does not hold water
Kamcilla Pillay 8 October 2014

REUTERS A gas flare burns at a fracking site in rural Bradford County, Pennsylvania, in this file picture.
Durban -

Energy firms approach the search for new sources of fuel with the same fervour as drug addicts seek their next fix.

And this “last fix” for those who have dedicated their lives to “selling carbon”, said hydrogeology expert, Dr Stefan Cramer, based at the University of Witwatersrand, is what fracking, also known as the extracting of shale gas from underground, represents.

Cramer shared his thoughts at a seminar titled “Six Reasons why the Karoo will not be Fracked... If Reason Prevails” hosted by the Centre for Civil Society based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday.

“It’s simple, if companies take the geology of the Karoo, its water issues, the infrastructure that will have to be built, the country’s business culture, the country’s political and economic issues SA faces, they will see that this is not a good idea,” said the semi-retired hydrogeologist from Germany, living in Graaff-Reinet, and a science adviser to the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute in Cape Town.

Cramer studies the particular risks to groundwater contamination from shale gas developments in the Karoo and advises local communities on the science and technology of “fracking”.

While the Karoo has been bandied about as a possible site of extraction, some mining companies have also begun examining other areas around the country, including those in Northern KwaZulu-Natal.

The areas being examined encompass the Ladysmith-Bergville areas, Newcastle, the northern border with Mozambique, including part of the Tembe Elephant Park but an exact area, in terms of kilometres, has not yet been demarcated.

The Daily News reported that the Sungu Sungu group, the mining company currently engaged in “desktop studies” of the area (examining the stability and build of the land) for the proposed mining activity, said that, at this early stage, fracking would not be on the cards for “a long time”.

The permit was issued to the company and allows it to acquire seismic data (relating to earthquakes or denoting geological surveying methods involving vibrations produced artificially by explosions) but did not include any prospecting or exploration activities.
This kind of study is usually used to focus early planning and engineering of any project and gathers and analyses existing data from the public domain, scientific and commercial databases and available project sources.
Cramer said little information on the status of these studies had been made available publicly, but dismissed the feasibility of the venture for the Karoo specifically and South Africa in general.

He unpacked each of the points during the course of his presentation.

“The more we learn about the complexities of the Karoo geology, the more it becomes clear that resource estimates are merely thumb-sucking in the absence of hard data...

“A consensus is emerging among South African water specialists that we simply know far too little about the deeper levels of groundwater and preferential pathways along which contamination from fracking fluids could travel upward into the current drinking water supplies.”

He said there was also “simply not enough water for fracking”. “Trucking water from outside the Karoo (from where?) would be prohibitively expensive and unpractical. Even outside the Karoo sources are scarce...”
He said that even if there were gas in the Karoo, there was simply no infrastructure in place to process it.

“Remember, most shale gas wells lose up to 70 percent of their production rates in the first year and then trail off at 10-20 per cent of their capacity.

“Thus, more and more wells need to be drilled, more power stations added or even moved, hardly an economic model. Even the transmission lines would have to be erected first, as the grid is barely sufficient for low usage distribution.”

He said that another reason for the absence of visible progress on the ground was the absence of a legal framework.

“The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act is totally inconsistent with the requirements of the onshore oil and gas industry and is in the process of being re-written.

Shale Gas - Dot Com
Tim Morgan (The Telegraph) 4 August 2014)

Output from shale wells declines so quickly that they will never be profitable - when investors realise this, the industry will collapse

Public opinion has been divided very starkly indeed by the government's invitation to energy companies to apply for licences to develop shale gas across a broad swathe of the United Kingdom.

On the one hand, many environmental and conservation groups are bitterly opposed to shale development. Ranged against them are those within and beyond the energy industry who believe that the exploitation of shale gas can prove not only vital but hugely positive for the British economy.

Rather oddly, hardly anyone seems to have asked the one question which is surely fundamental: does shale development make economic sense?

My conclusion is that it does not.

That Britain needs new energy sources is surely beyond dispute. Between 2003 and 2013, domestic production of oil and gas slumped by 62 percent and 65 percent respectively, while coal output decreased by 55 percent. Despite sharp increases in the output of renewables, overall energy production has fallen by more than half. A net exporter of energy as recently as 2003, Britain now buys almost half of its energy from abroad, and this gap seems certain to widen.

The policies of successive governments have worsened this situation. The "dash for gas" in the Nineties accelerated depletion of our gas reserves. Labour's dithering over nuclear power put replacement of our ageing reactors at least a decade behind schedule, and a premature abandonment of coal has taken place alongside an inconsistent, scattergun approach to renewables.

Those who claim that Britain faces an energy squeeze are right, then. But those who claim that the answer is using fracking to extract gas from shale formations are guilty of putting hope ahead of reality.

The example held up by the pro-fracking lobby is, of course, the United States, where fracking has produced so much gas that the market has been oversupplied, forcing gas prices sharply downwards.

The trouble with this parallel is that it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the US shale story.

We now have more than enough data to know what has really happened in America. Shale has been hyped ("Saudi America") and investors have poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the shale sector. If you invest this much, you get a lot of wells, even though shale wells cost about twice as much as ordinary ones.

If a huge number of wells come on stream in a short time, you get a lot of initial production. This is exactly what has happened in the US.

The key word here, though, is "initial". The big snag with shale wells is that output falls away very quickly indeed after production begins. Compared with "normal” oil and gas wells, where output typically decreases by seven to ten percent annually, rates of decline for shale wells are dramatically worse. It is by no means unusual for production from each well to fall by sixty percent or more in the first twelve months of operations alone.

Faced with such rates of decline, the only way to keep production rates up (and to keep investors on side) is to drill yet more wells. This puts operators on a "drilling treadmill", which should worry local residents just as much as investors. Net cash flow from US shale has been negative year after year, and some of the industry's biggest names have already walked away.

The seemingly inevitable outcome for the US shale industry is that, once investors wise up, and once the drilling sweet spots have been used, production will slump, probably peaking in 2017 to 2018 and falling precipitously after that. The US is already littered with wells that have been abandoned, often without the site being cleaned up.

Meanwhile, recoverable reserves estimates for the Monterey shale - supposedly the biggest shale liquids play in the US - have been revised downwards by 96 percent. In Poland, drilling thirty to forty wells has so far produced virtually no worthwhile production.

In the future, shale will be recognised as this decade's version of the dotcom bubble. In the shorter term, it's a counsel of despair as an energy supply squeeze draws ever nearer. While policymakers and investors should favour solar, waste conversion and conservation over the chimera of shale riches, opponents would be well advised to promote the economic case against the shale fad.

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