Fracking possibility: KZN crowds fume
BUSINESS – 03 November 2015 at 1:30pm
By: Lee Rondganger
Durban – An American-based oil company which wants to drill for oil and gas on 10 000 KwaZulu-Natal farms, faced a hostile crowd yesterday in Ashburton, near Pietermaritzburg, when it began its public consultation process.
Rhino Resources, headquartered in Texas, felt the full brunt of an angry community, made up mostly of farmers who fear that the company intends to use hydraulic rock fracturing (fracking) to extract any gas deposits it may find.
Fracking is a term that describes the artificial fracturing and shattering of underground rock to extract methane and other gases by pumping a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals and sand up to 6km into the ground.
Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa has lodged an application with the Petroleum Agency South Africa to explore farms covering a 1.5 million-hectare span. As part of the legal process, the company needs to hold a meeting with affected communities.
Yesterday, about 300 people crammed into the Ashburton public hall where Phillip Steyn, chief operating officer at Rhino Oil and Gas Explorations, and independent environmental consultants of SLR Consulting, took questions.
Residents complained that the meeting was held early in the morning when most people were at work and a small number left before it could start, arguing that the company’s intention to drill boreholes was illegal.
Among those raising objection to possible fracking was Pietermaritzburg’s St John’s Diocesan School for Girls which handed in a petition signed by 200 pupils.
Frans du Toit, of African Conservation, said if there was the slightest risk of water pollution, it would be unforgivable.
“We cannot risk the health of our future generations for short-term gain,” he said.
Du Toit asked Steyn whether fracking was the end goal. Steyn dodged the question, saying that it could not be determined because it was “so far down the line”.
Pressed for a yes or no answer on whether fracking would be used, Steyn refused to answer.
“We don’t know at this time,” he said.
It was left to SLR consultant, Matthew Hemming, who said there were various methods of extracting gas from the ground and that fracking was one of them.
“Fracking is a possible end goal. That is a fair conclusion,” he said.