Fracking out in the open at last

A team of researchers has R12.5-million and two years to consider the effect of fracking for shale gas on the Karoo. Image: flickr

A team of researchers has R12.5-million and two years to consider the effect of fracking for shale gas on the Karoo. Image: flickr

A team of researchers has R12.5-million and two years to consider the effect of fracking for shale gas on the Karoo.

The strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of shale gas development has to be completed in two years – before exploration for the energy source begins in earnest, assessment leader Professor Bob Scholes said this week.

The government’s shale gas interdepartmental task team on Tuesday launched the SEA, calling it a “science-based assessment to improve our understanding of the risks and opportunities of shale gas development”.

In his budget speech in February, the minister of finance, Nhlanhla Nene, allocated R108-million to shale gas research.

Shale gas has been touted as a way to curb climate change and reduce the world’s reliance on coal, but has been met with opposition from civil and environmental lobby groups querying whether it is cleaner than coal, among other concerns.

To liberate natural gas – mainly comprising methane – from shale rock, the rock must be hydraulically fractured or “fracked”. This involves pumping chemicals into rock fissures under pressure and then recovering it for processing…

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Sarah Wild

Sarah Wild is an award-winning science journalist. She studied physics, electronics and English literature at Rhodes University in an effort to make herself unemployable. It didn't work and she is now the Science Editor at the Mail&Guardian. Sarah writes about particle physics, cosmology and everything in between. In 2012, she published her first full-length non-fiction book Searching African Skies: The Square Kilometre Array and South Africa’s Quest to Hear the Songs of the Stars. In 2013, she was awarded overall winner of the Pan-African Siemens Profile Awards for excellence in science journalism.

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