“To Frack or not to frack”. Analysing the contemporary debates on hydraulic fracturing in South Africa.
University of Fort Hare, South Africa
In South Africa, there are plans to extract the shale based gas in the Karoo through a process called hydraulic fracturing also known as ‘fracking’. The issue of extracting shale based in the Karoo through fracking has become a contentious issue which has opinion both in the media and at policy level. Most of the opposition to fracking has been the accusation that the parties involved, that is the energy companies have not been very open and forthcoming about the health risks associated with fracking. This has become contentious because some studies have shown that the Karoo has the capacity to enough shale gas to line it as the primary energy source in the future. Specifically, the man challenge to fracking is that it has the potential to pollute groundwater sources. There have also been accusations that the process might deplete the water levels in the Karoo which are already extremely low as the Karoo is considered as a semi-arid area. The objective of this research is to assess the benefits and possible challenges of hydraulic fracking in the Karoo. First the paper assesses whether shale can be a viable replacement coal in South Africa as the primary energy source. Secondly, the study attempts to see if the benefits of shale gas extraction like cleaner energy, more option to bolster the energy needs in South Africa, provision of employment and increased government revenue outweigh some of the possible challenges such water contamination, compounding water shortages in the Karoo or the side-lining of the Karoo people in the possible benefits that will derived from the area.